Build finds fulfillment of her dreams in wild blue yonder

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Massachusetts, Mary Shyne Build has always loved being outdoors.

Mary said she discovered her true passion when her children were five and 10 years old, but she didn’t fulfill that passion until her youngest, Lisa, was in college. That’s when she had an opportunity to learn how to fly and fulfilled her passion for the first time way up in the sky — at 47 years young!

THE SKY IS THE LIMIT — Pilot Mary Build, pictured, never flew a plane until she was 47 years old, now she owns her own successful aviation business and flight school. (Ackley Photo)

“That was back in 1991, and I’ve been flying for business and pleasure ever since,” Mary said, with her characteristic bright smile.

“When my oldest daughter was 10, she said she wanted to take a scenic flight, and we had a neighbor who was a pilot and he took us up in his plane,” said Mary. “That was in August. We went to Halifax, Massachusetts, and Peter Annis took us over the North River down to the ocean and we followed the beach all the way down the Cape Cod Canal and we landed on Long Pond in Plymouth — it was the smoothest landing I ever experienced! I love the water! The combination of flying and the water just hit me!”

Mary’s inner desire to become a pilot never died. In fact, it grew stronger and stronger.

“I looked into flying three different times,” said Mary. “I wanted to become a commercial seaplane charter pilot, because I could see the need. So, finally I said, ‘All right, I’ll get a land rating. But, I felt I couldn’t do for my children and flying, too. My oldest daughter was interested in riding (horses), and she showed all throughout New England. My youngest daughter was coming along and she had outside interests, too — she was particularly interested in swimming. Being a mother is the most important job of any you could do — they were my priority.”

Yet, Mary still held on to her childhood longing to be outside in the fresh air.

“I was working in an office in the supermarket industry, at Angelo’s,” said Mary. “I was very good at what I did, but they couldn’t give me enough windows or a big enough office to make me happy. Then, I found the book ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ that helps you discover what it is you really want to do. I knew that in order to get out of the office and supermarket industry I had to leave the security of a salary and insurance and benefits. I had to give myself time to figure out what I wanted to do. Then, by chance, I went for a scenic flight with Tom Shaffner of Fryeburg. I’d been downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and backpacking here, but I never realized just how beautiful this area is until I went up in a plane — and I said, ‘I’ve got to do this!’”

Yet, at that time in her life, Mary said she was just thinking of flying as an enjoyable activity, nothing more.

“So, I wasn’t thinking of flying as a profession,” said Mary. “I was 47 years old, then. After I got my private pilot’s license, everybody could see my enthusiasm. I thought everyone had this same enthusiasm! Then, my friend Charlie Peck suggested I get an Instrument rating, and I said, ‘Okay!’ Then Charlie said, ‘What are you going to do next? Why don’t you get your commercial pilot rating?’ I asked him, ‘What on earth am I going to do with a commercial rating, at 50 years old?’ I thought he meant I wasn’t a good pilot, so I went out and, in two weeks’ time, I had a commercial license.”

Yet, Mary’s friend Charlie wasn’t through playing the cheerleader of her, as yet, unfulfilled dream.

“Charlie said again to me, ‘What are you going to do next, Mary?’ I said, ‘I’m all done — that’s it!’ Then Charlie asked me, ‘Why not get a commercial seaplane rating?’ So, within two weeks, I came home with a commercial seaplane rating!”

Asked if she just loves challenges, Mary replied, “Oh, yes, I do! I really love a challenge!”

According to Mary, no one else in her family had a love for the outdoors like she did, when she was growing up, the youngest child of six.

“I grew up in Cohasset, with the smell of exhaust and diesel fumes,” Mary stated. “I loved the smell of the salt water, so I couldn’t wait to get out of the city.”

Next, Mary thought it was time to look into owning her own airplane.

Meeting her future husband roundabout

“I didn’t know who to trust about finding out how to buy a plane — I didn’t know anything about floats or anything else, so someone suggested I get in touch with Jim Build in Naples. They told me he is undoubtedly the best seaplane pilot in the State of Maine. My friend said of Jim, ‘He might be a little grouchy, but I think he’d be willing to help you.’ So, I talked to Jim two or three times, in the next year. When I didn’t know what to do, and I hit a brick wall, he’d give me tons of advice. So, when I wanted to purchase this particular plane, Jim said, ‘Certainly, it’s a good plane. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. I’d buy it.’ So, I bought it!”

Next, Mary needed a place for her seaplane.

“Then, Howard Dearborn said he knew I’d bought a seaplane, and he had just the place for it. So, I flew down to Lovewell’s Pond, and Howard was there and he made a beautiful spot for it.”

Then, Mary’s friend and fellow aviator Neil Minschwaner, told her there was a seaplane base available in Naples by the Causeway on Long Lake.

“I knew enough about marketing, and I could tell it was a great location right beside a restaurant and a parking area,” Mary explained. “So, I went into Griff’s Store and I asked the woman working there if she possibly knew who owned it. She took out the phone book, made a mark beside a name and number and handed me the phone book. I called and said I was interested in the seaplane base. The man on the other end of the phone said, ‘I’m around town. All you have to do is look for my truck.’ And, I still didn’t know it was the same man I had talked to before about buying a seaplane. It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized he was one and the same person! He told me he had just leased it to someone, and I knew I needed 50 hours, before I could do seaplane charters. So, I said well, I’ll look for my own seaplane base, which I did for more than a year.”

Later on, she asked the family that owned the seaplane base operation located on Jim Build’s property at the Causeway in Naples if they were interested in selling it to her.

At this point, Mary paused and told how her daughter had interviewed Howard Dearborn, founder of Dearborn Precision Tubular Products in the Midwest and in Fryeburg, who also started The Real World Foundation.

“My daughter asked him, ‘What would you describe to be the most important things to being successful?’ Howard told her, ‘Love what you do. Be very good at what you do. And, be the only one doing it.’ In my case, I’m the only woman doing it,” said Mary.

One day, Mary walked in her door and the phone was ringing. It was the couple who owned the seaplane base operation saying they had changed their minds.

“So, I said to myself, ‘I don’t know if I can do scenic flights, seven days a week!’ But, I said I would lease it with an option, so Jim allowed me to lease it. He saw my sincerity. If it weren’t for Jim, I wouldn’t be it today. I was just following my heart, and he just filled me in with information.”

Jim and Mary Build were married in 2007.

“Jim decided on a Tuesday he wanted to get married, and we got married on Thursday,” said Mary.

Mary enjoys being a member of the Katahdin Wings, Maine’s chapter of the New England section of the International Women’s Pilot Association, commonly called the 99s. She has received many awards, including “The Pilot Who Has Done the Most for General Aviation in the State of Maine” from the Aero Club of New England, “The Woman Pilot Who Has Done the Most for Women in Aviation” from the New England section of the 99s and FAASTeam Representative of the Year in 2008 from the Federal Aviation Administration in Portland.

‘I have reached my goal’

Mary said the reality of all she has accomplished, literally struck her in mid-flight!

“It wasn’t until I was on a chartered flight that it hit me — I got light headed — that I have reached my goal without consciously working toward it! What I did was the next best challenge,” said Mary. “I had learned by now to take the next best thing and do it! The important part is I had reached my goal! When I speak to groups of kids I say, ‘You’ve got to put one foot in front of the other. If you feel it in your gut that’s something you want to do, you do it! You’ve got to follow your dream!’”

Now, Mary Build owns and operates Western Maine Aviation at the Eastern Slope Airport here.

Smiling broadly, Mary said, “It’s like coming home, because this is where I took my first private flying lesson from Jon Saxby!”

Please follow and like us: