White Mountains History: The Lost Airstrips

There used to be more than one hobby occurring at 4000' in the White Mountains.

A typical day at the outlets.

A typical day at the outlets.

       Today when you drive through North Conway New Hampshire you will pass the massive Settler’s Green Outlet Mall before coming to the village. A careful observer in Settler’s Green might notice that the surrounding land is completely flat, which is odd, considering the surrounding geography. This is the valley, when people refer to "The Mount Washington Valley".

Before Settler’s Green was Settler’s Green it was a fairground, and a site for barnstorming. In 1921 the Carroll County Park Association purchased the land, leveled it and built a runway (for Context, The Wright Brother’s plane took off 18 years earlier, in 1903).

 
Imagine this where the Eddie Bauer Outlet is.

Imagine this where the Eddie Bauer Outlet is.

 

In 1929 the grounds became a private airport owned by the White Mountain Airport Corporation (they purchased the land from Carroll County for just $4,100!). At the time there were several operational airports in the area. The Conway Village Airport (closed), Twin Mountain Airport (still operational), and Parlin Field in Newport, NH (still operational) to name a few.

Paul Freeman does an excellent job mapping abandon and little known airfields in New Hampshire on his site. Many thanks to him.

These airports catered to small craft enthusiasts. Most held air shows and stunts on a regular basis. In the 1930s the owner of the White Mountain Airport, Wylie Apte, would demonstrate target bombing above his airfield. An early sky diver, Harold Brown, would jump from planes in a bat suit (similar to today’s wingsuits) above North Conway.

A suit similar to the one Harold Brown used.

A suit similar to the one Harold Brown used.

Following World War II the industry exploded. Former Air Force pilots flooded the airports.

 
Many veterans wanted to keep flying.

Many veterans wanted to keep flying.

 
 
After WWII recreational flying took off.

After WWII recreational flying took off.

 

          At this time several new runways were built in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, below the White Mountain National Forest. The energy crisis of the 1970s, and property tax code changes in the 1980s significantly impacted the financial stability of the airports. In the 1980s many of these airstrips were closed. White Mountain Airport was sold to the developers of Settler’s Green in 1988.

Some small aviation communities still exist in the Lakes Region, like Soaring Heights, and Windsock Village in Ossipee, but the majority lay dormant. In fact, just down Ossipee Lake Road from Windsock Village you can find an abandoned airstrip about 100 yards into the woods. It’s easy to spot on Google Maps.