TRENTON – The private jets parked at BHB are easily visible from Rt. 3. In August at the height of the season, one would have thought we were Nantucket.
The truth is a lot more sobering.
The airport has suffered from the pandemic just like all businesses on MDI. The private jet planes parked on the tarmac in Trenton is a deceptive picture.
Bar Harbor Airport is logging its worst year for private aviation since the Great Recession. The number of landings from April through June were epic in their decline. July and August improved a bit but were still underwater compared to a year ago. Airport manager Leroy Muise said most of the planes recorded here were for private planes and that airline traffic has trickled to only 16 a week.
Commuting to MDI from Boston and other tales of erstwhile adventures, tragedies …
SEAWALL, Sept. 22, 2020 – I turned to Charles Gill and asked, “Peter Monighetti .. you know who he was?”
Gill and I were waxing nostalgic about the days when we commuted by plane from Boston to the island. I did it only a few years, and only on the weekends of a two- or three-week vacation. Friday afternoons made for familiar faces. One was Ned Johnson, CEO of Fidelity. He was making his way to his “cottage” on Long Pond, while I was headed toward my camp on the same lake. Gill has been coming to Maine for summers since the Sixties. His daughter Charlotte owns Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound here. He and I were chewing the fat while I waited for my lunch and the subject of commuting from Boston came up because we both served sentences there – I as one of only five Yankee fans in a newsroom of 500 Red Sox fanatics.
I learned to pick politically safe subjects to discuss.
By the time I started flying to Bar harbor, the airline of choice was Colgan. Gill was of a previous era, when Bar Harbor Airline owned the route.
He told me of the terrible crash which killed four people – including the founder and his son – all of whom he knew. I googled the accident, which occurred in 1978.
Peter Monighetti was one of two pilots on that flight. Two years earlier he walked away from another crash in Lamoine as he was the solo pilot guiding the Beechcraft 99 to land at BHB when the plane clipped a ridge on the approach. Monighetti suffered only cuts and bruises.
Two years later, as chief pilot for the airline, he wasn’t so lucky. That second crash on May 16, 1978, in extreme rain and fog near the airport in Trenton, would also take the lives of Thomas Caruso of Trenton, the owner of Bar Harbor Airlines, Caruso’s son Gary, and the assistant pilot, Malcolm Conner of Bar Harbor.
But the most famous crash in Bar Harbor Airline history occurred in August 1985. I was city editor of the Boston Globe at the time. Samantha Smith, a girl from Manchester, Maine, gained international fame when she wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov who then invited her to come to Russia and she accepted. She became known as America’s youngest ambassador. She became a huge media phenomenon. Readers under 50 probably have little recollection.
Here’s Wikipedia account of the crash which took her life at Age 13.
“On August 25, 1985, Smith and her father were returning home aboard Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after filming a segment for Lime Street. While attempting to land at Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport, the commuter plane struck some trees 4,007 feet (1,221 m) short of the runway and crashed, killing all six passengers and two crew. … it was a rainy night, the pilots operating the aircraft were inexperienced, and an accidental, but not uncommon and not usually critical, ground radar failure occurred.”
I had forgotten about the crash. It didn’t seem so long ago but if she were alive, Samantha Smith would be 55 years old. Many readers of this blog would have no memory of that. Here is a video of her appearance on the Tonight Show: