J&M Aviation signs deal with glider company

MIDDLEBURY — Those living near the Middlebury State Airport have grown accustomed to the occasional buzz of small planes taking off and landing at the 2,500-foot runway off Airport Road.
Neighbors will soon notice some silent landings, and we’re not talking about aircraft with engine trouble.
Mike Vincent, owner of J&M Aviation, has confirmed that his company has signed a deal to become the Northeast service hub for Stemme motor gliders. Stemme is company based in Germany. Its aircraft are endowed with engines that allow them to take off and get to a desired cruising altitude and then allow the pilot to shut off power and glide all the way to a landing. Unlike conventional gliders, Stemmes don’t need a tow plane to get airborne.
Vincent said there are thus far around 10 Stemme motor-glider owners in the New England region. Those clients must now get maintenance or repair work done at Stemme service centers in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Texas. Stemme had been lacking a service center in the Northeast, but J&M will now fit that bill.
“This new setup will benefit our company here and their company,” Vincent said of J&M’s association with Stemme.
Vincent noted that Stemme had considered building its own facility at the Middlebury Airport, complete with a service shop and showroom. But the company ultimately decided to simply contract with J&M to provide repairs and maintenance for Stemme aircraft owners.
Stemme will soon provide training to Vincent and other J&M staff on how to service the specialized aircraft. Vincent expects to receive visits from Stemme owners from as far south as Maryland. The closest service center for folks in this area had been in Florida.
While the new contract is not expected to immediately require J&M to hire new workers, Vincent believes it could be a precursor to expansion. Around 70 percent of J&M’s business currently comes from out of state, according to Vincent. In some cases, these are clients who are finding J&M’s prices cheaper than service centers in major cities.
“There seems to be a pickup in aviation right now,” Vincent said. “The economy definitely affects aviation.”
Jamie Gaucher, director of the Middlebury Office of Business Development and Innovation, gave kudos to J&M.
“I’m hopeful this can turn into a substantial opportunity for J&M Aviation,” Gaucher said. “This relationship with a German manufacturer could bear fruit downstream.”
Fortunately, the Middlebury Airport runway is long enough to accommodate the Stemme aircraft, so pilots will be able to fly them in and either stay in the area while work is being done or take a commercial plane back to their ports of origin.
Vincent said his business would get a further boost if the long talked-about plans of extending the Middlebury Airport runway finally come to fruition.
Scott Fortney, aviation project developer for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), said efforts remain under way to extend the Middlebury Airport runway by at least 700 feet, to a total of 3,200.
With that in mind, VTrans officials have been contacting 16 abutting landowners to negotiate what Fortney called “avigation” easements that would ensure adequate approach clearance for larger airplanes seeking to access the Middlebury strip. The term “avigation” is a combination of the words “navigation” and “aviation,” according to Fortney.
“We have done appraisals and are preparing to make offers based on those appraisals,” Fortney said.
Vincent said a 3,900-foot runway would allow the Middlebury Airport to receive some small jets and mid-sized twin-engine aircraft. But Fortney said the Federal Aviation Agency — which would have to be a major funder of a runway project — is currently of a mind that 3,200 feet is sufficient for Middlebury unless the community can prove a longer strip would be used. Forney said Middlebury might be able to make a pitch for a 3,700-foot runway.
State officials have set three goals for completion this year to get the Middlebury Airport runway project on a firm course: negotiating the necessary avigation easements; securing a safety area around the runway; and preparing a final environmental assessment document for the project area.
Funding could also be a challenge. A VTrans engineer has estimated a cost of $3.5 million to extend the Middlebury runway up to 3,200 feet, and more for longer runways. That includes engineering costs to complete final design and project inspection costs.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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