Casco Bay, ME – July 4, 1887

Casco Bay, Maine – July 4, 1887


     At 5 p.m. on July 4, 1887, the balloon “Columbia” made an ascension from Lincoln Park in Portland, Maine, with two men aboard: the pilot, Professor Charles H. Grimby, (or possibly Grimsby), and an unnamed passenger who was a reporter for the Boston Globe newspaper.   

     When the Columbia was fifty feet in the air it was caught by a strong wind and pushed into some telegraph and telephone wires briefly becoming entangled before breaking free.  It then climbed to 3,000 feet where it began drifting eastward towards the waters of Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  To be blown out to sea would have meant certain death, so Professor Grimby opened the valve to the balloon hoping to land on one of the islands in the bay.  As the balloon began to drop he threw out a long drag rope to slow their speed.  The rope whipped and snapped through the water but did little to halt their progress. 

     The balloon then reportedly began crossing over “Windward Island” where a some men made an attempt to grab hold if it, but they were pulled to the ground and dragged along with it and were forced to let go.  (It should be noted here that contemporary maps do not list a Windward Island for Casco Bay, and it’s possible the island mentioned was actually Cushing, or Peaks Island.)

     Finally the  drag rope became snagged on a grouping of rocks which briefly stopped the balloon and held it, but the strong wind kept rocking the balloon and before long the rope broke and the Columbia continued on out over the water.  Finally enough gas had been released through the open valve to cause it to plunge into the water.  The gondola, with the men inside, was almost completely submerged as fierce winds continued to buffet the balloon and push it across the bay while both men held on for their lives.

     By this time the men were well away from shore and without life jackets.  Fortunately their plight was seen by those aboard the yacht Mermaid, and the boat gave chase.  The Mermaid eventually caught up to the balloon and managed to rescue both men.  The balloon was not recovered. 

     Professor Grimby told the press it was the most exciting and dangerous trip he had ever made.

     Source: The Worthington Advance, (Worthington, Minn.) July 28, 1887



Augusta, ME – July 4, 1892

Augusta, Maine – July 4, 1892

     On July 4, 1892, a female aeronaut identified as “Madame Patti” was scheduled to make a balloon ascension at Augusta, Maine.  The balloon rose briefly before it fell into the swift flowing Kennebec River where Madame Patti became entangled in the rigging.  Fortunately she was rescued and brought to shore where it reportedly took thirty minutes to reviver her. 

     Source: Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Burlington, VT.), “Came Down In The Kennebec”, July 7, 1892  

Kittery, ME – September 24, 1860

Kittery, Maine – September 24, 1860

     On September 24, 1860, Dr. W. H. Helme, along with William Hill and Peter Dean, made a balloon ascension from Providence, Rhode Island.  The balloon traveled north-northeast and after five hours landed in Newton, New Hampshire, a town just over the border from Massachusetts, about ninety miles from Providence.

     A strong breeze was blowing as the men began to allow the gas to escape from the balloon.  When the balloon had partially deflated, it broke free of the netting and sailed off on its own minus the gondola and any pilot.  It was later recovered in Kittery, Maine. 


     Cincinnati Daily Press, (Ohio), “Balloon Ascension”, September 25, 1860     

Spotted Mountain, ME – November 19, 1973

Spotted Mountain, Maine – November 19, 1973


     On the evening of November 19, 1973, a Cessna 172, (N92899), with four people aboard crashed on Spotted Mountain in North Franklin, Maine.  The people, two men and two women, were in-route from Biddeford to Millinocket when the accident occurred.  All aboard were dressed in formal attire.

     One man and one woman suffered leg fractures.  The other two people received relatively minor injuries.   The group spent the night in a small natural depression in the ground with portions of the aircraft placed along the rim to help block the cold winds and snow.  They built a fire using portions of one woman’s evening gown to ignite the wood. 

     The following morning the uninjured man, clad in his tuxedo, made his way down the mountain to a road and flagged down a passing truck.  A helicopter was dispatched to rescue the others still at the crash site.  All were brought to a clinic in Rangeley, Maine, and were expected to recover.

     Source: Nashua Telegraph, “4 Survive Plane Crash”, November 21, 1973      

Portland Airport, ME – March 29, 1956

Portland Airport

Portland, Maine – March 29, 1956


     On the evening of March 29, 1956, Northeast Airlines Flight 124 departed La Guardia Airport in New York City bound for Bangor, Maine, with stops at Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.

     The aircraft was a Convair 240, registration # N90659, with 32 passengers and a flight crew of 3 aboard.

     The weather was snowy, and the flight was made on instrument flight rules.  The flight landed at Boston’s Logan Airport without incident, and departed for Portland at 9:20 p.m.

     When the flight arrived at Portland Airport, tower personnel saw the aircraft approaching runway 20, but lost sight of it briefly due to the weather.  It then reappeared, approaching the runway with its landing lights on in an apparently normal final approach.  Just after the aircraft landed the landing gear collapsed and after a short distance the nose suddenly plowed into the snow and the tail section went up in the air before dropping back to the ground. 

     Rescue vehicles were immediately dispatched.  Passengers were evacuated through the front of the plane due to the elevated tail section.  As with any aviation accident, fire is always a possibility after a crash.  The crew did their best to make for a quick evacuation of passengers, but some insisted upon retrieving their personal belongings before leaving the plane.   Thankfully, there was no fire and all aboard were evacuated safely, with only five passengers suffering minor injuries.

     Investigation revealed that the cause of the accident was due to inoperable runway lights on the right side of the runway, as well as other runways lights not being visible to the flight crew due to being covered by heavy drifting snow.   This combined with poor visibility caused the aircraft to set down to the left of the runway. 

     In the final analysis under “Probable Cause”, the Civil Aeronautics Board investigators stated in their report, “The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was inadequate maintenance of runway lights and incorrect reporting of their condition resulting in an illusionary position of the runway under conditions of low visibility.”


     Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report, #1-0048, Adopted September 11, 1956, released September 14, 1956.     

Biddeford, ME – April 19, 1909

Biddeford, Maine – April 19, 1909


    Early balloon with net On the morning of April 19, 1909, a balloon, piloted by William Van Sleet, took off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and drifted northeastward.  Four hours and fifty minutes later it came down in some treetops in a forest north of Biddeford, Maine.   Neither Van Sleet, or his passenger, Oscar R. Hutchinson, were injured.  The men climbed down the trees and reached the ground safely. 

     The distance traveled was calculated to be 160 miles in a straight line, but was actually 50 miles longer by the route taken.  It was reported in the Bennington Evening Banner that the men had “completed one of the longest balloon trips ever made in New England”.          


    Bennington Evening Banner, “Balloon In Tree Top”, April 20, 1909

Presque Isle, ME – September 13, 1931

Presque Isle, Maine – September 13, 1931

     Shortly after noon time on September 13, 1931, a small plane with two men aboard crashed in a potato field near the Presque Isle Airport.  Witnesses said it failed to come out of a spin. 

     Ralph Morritt, manager of the Presque Isle Airport, was killed instantly.  Raymond Stone, 27, succumbed to his injures at a nearby hospital.   

     No further details were given.


     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Two Are Killed In Plane Crash At Presque Isle”, September 14, 1931 

Scarborough, ME – March 26, 1946

Scarborough, Maine – March 26, 1946

     On March 26, 1946, pilot David Moores, 19, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, was alone in his airplane over the town of Scarborough when he developed engine trouble and the plane began to loose altitude.  At a location near Black Point Road, the aircraft snagged on electrical wires causing the plane to crash.  Although the plane was badly damaged, Moores walked away with only minor injuries.

     Source: Lewiston Daily Sun, “Pilot Gets Minor Cuts As His Plane Crashes”, March 27, 1946 


Old Orchard Beach, ME – April 18, 1932

Old Orchard Beach, Maine – April 18, 1932

     Very little was stated in the newspaper article about this accident.  On April 18, 1932, Joseph Snow, of Pine Point, Maine, and Wendell S. Carney, of South Portland, Maine, were seriously injured in a plane crash at Old Orchard Beach and taken to Webber Hospital.     

     An even briefer article was found in the Montreal Gazette which stated the plane went down in the water.  That article also mentioned a Sam Snow was killed in the crash and another man was rescued.   


     Lewiston Evening Journal, “Old Orchard Crash Victims Improved”, April 19, 1932.

     Montreal Gazette, “One Killed In Plane Crash”, April 19, 1932

Auburn, ME – August 25, 1985

Auburn, Maine – August 25, 1985


     At 3:30 p.m. on August 25, 1985, Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1793, left Bangor, Maine, for Boston.  The aircraft was a Beech BE-99, (N300WP). 

     The flight was part of a regularly scheduled commuter route between Logan International Airport in Boston, and Bangor International Airport in Maine, with intermediate stops at Auburn, Augusta, and Waterville, Maine.

     Flight 1793 arrived safely at Boston, and flew back at Bangor arriving at 6:24 p.m., about twenty-five minutes behind schedule.  At this time, weather conditions along the flight route were deteriorating, and continued to do so, causing delays in arrival and departure times.  

     At 6:40 p.m., the aircraft once again took off from Bangor this time as Flight 1755, and landed at Augusta at 7:05 p.m.

    At 7:15 p.m., Flight 1755 departed for Boston and arrived there at 8:15 p.m., twenty-five minutes later than its scheduled arrival time.   

     The aircraft departed Boston at 9:17 p.m. with six passengers and a crew of two aboard, this time as Flight 1808.   Two passengers were flying to Auburn-Lewiston Airport, three to Augusta, and one to Waterville.  Two other passengers had been ticketed for the flight, but they were transferred to a non-stop flight to Bangor, and thus their lives were saved.  

     Shortly before 10:00 p.m. Flight 1808 began an instrument approach to Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, in Auburn, Maine.   

     At 10:05 p.m. the aircraft crashed and burned in a wooded area about one mile southwest of Runway 4, and all aboard were killed.

     The coordinates of the crash site were listed in the NTSB crash report as 44 degrees, 02′ 22″ N. Latitude, 70 degrees, 17′ 30″ W. Longitude, 4,007 feet from the approach end of Runway 4.

     Among the passengers who lost their lives, was 13-year-old Samantha Smith, famous for being America’s Good Will Ambassador to the Soviet Union.  (More information about Samantha can be found elsewhere on the Internet.)

     Bar Harbor Airlines ceased operations in 1991.


     National Transportation Safety Board Crash Investigation Report #NTSB/AAR-86/06, Govt. Accession No. PB86-910408.     

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Eight Dead In Fiery Auburn Crash”, August 26, 1985  

     Bangor Daily News, “Nation Grieves For Samantha Smith”, August 27, 1985

     Orlando Sentinel, “Samantha Smith Dies In Maine Plane Crash”, August 28, 1985.

     Gainsville Sun, “Panel Concludes Pilot Error Caused Crash That Killed Samantha Smith”, October 1, 1986, Page 8B

     Wikipedia – Bar Harbor Airlines


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