November 18, 2012

Two UMaine students, alumnus died in Owls Head plane crash

Friday’s fiery accident in Owls Head killed three members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, including the young pilot from South Portland.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

and Beth Quimby
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Northgraves said the pilot was operating under visual flight rules, which do not require any radio announcements, unlike those flying under instrument flight rules. Visual rules apply to airplanes that are operated in conditions that do not require the use of guidance instruments. When weather conditions are adverse, instrument flight rules are invoked to make sure planes navigating through fog, clouds and other conditions where visibility is limited have more sophisticated instrumentation.

Visual flight rules also do not require the pilot to file a flight plan with the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Saturday, investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene trying to determine the sequence of events that led to the deadly crash. 

A Maine State Forest Service helicopter retrieved the men’s bodies from the woods and took them to a nearby field. They were then transported to the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

Northgraves said it is believed the plane collided with the right front of the truck just as it was lifting off around 4:45 p.m. in clear but dark conditions. It managed to climb another 150 feet before crashing into dense woods to the left of the runway and bursting into flames.

The mood among airport workers was glum Saturday. Kevin Waters, director of operations for Penobscot Island Air, said he heard the airplane crash. “I heard a thump,” he said.

Penobscot Island Air provides service to seven offshore islands and the mainland communities of Bar Harbor, Belfast, Rockland and Stonington and is based at the Knox County airport.

“When tragedy happens, it kind of hits the aviation community hard,” Waters said.

The Knox County Regional Airport is one of only six out of the state’s 36 public airports, including Portland, Bangor, Augusta, Bar Harbor and Presque Isle, with scheduled commercial flights.

About 85 percent of the annual 55,000 takeoffs and landings at the airport involve airplanes without sophisticated instrumentation.

The airport is home to a $4 million terminal, constructed in 2010.

The airport has been the scene of other fatal crashes over the years, including a 1979 crash in which a de Havilland Twin Otter turboprop crashed short of the runway in foggy weather, killing 17 people.

About 80 aircraft are based at the Knox County Regional Airport.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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