PORTLAND – Allyn Caruso literally grew up at the airport. Until he was 10 years old his family lived at the Bar Harbor airport, where his father and uncle ran an aviation company.

Today, Caruso spends most of his time in offices at the Portland International Jetport or in the air, managing and flying charters for the company his father helped start, Maine Aviation Corp.

Caruso is a well-known figure in the aviation community, both in Maine and elsewhere.

“His is a bit of a household name in aviation circles, and not just in Maine. He is a kid that grew up around airplanes,” said Barry Valentine, former manager of the Portland International Jetport. Valentine also served as Maine’s director of aeronautics and served as acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration. “He is a savvy businessman who survived all these years in a business that can be tough to survive in.”

Caruso says his dad Joseph was savvy, too. In the 1940s, Joseph and Caruso’s uncle bought three Martin PBM Mariner flying boats for $1 each from the Navy, which had abandoned its operations at the Bar Harbor airport.

The brothers melted two of the planes for scrap, and dragged a third to the end of the runway, where they made it into a sign for their flying business.

In the late 1950s, an airplane broker asked to buy the remaining plane for a South Pole expedition.

“He said sure, he’d sell it,” said Caruso of his dad. “But being an old Mainer, he wouldn’t put a price on it.”

Eventually the buyer offered $25,000.

Joseph “about fell off his chair,” said Caruso.

Caruso was raised in Bar Harbor and, later, in Portland. He started working at his dad’s company in high school, sweeping hangar floors and fueling planes.

Caruso attended the former Nathaniel Hawthorne College in New Hampshire, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and earned credits from the school’s pilot training program.

While there, Caruso co-piloted an old Douglas DC-3 that the school used to fly students and sports teams.

When it rained, the plane leaked water through the nose.

“You’d get out, and your shoes and socks were soaked,” said Caruso.

After school, Caruso returned to Maine and spent four years flying for Bar Harbor Airlines, a commercial airline started by his father, before joining Maine Aviation in 1974.

These says, Caruso, who lives in Standish, manages the company and flies charter flights when the company needs an extra pilot.

He’s got a respectable 20,000 hours in the cockpit, and has flown around the world, literally.

In 1991, Caruso circumnavigated the globe in one week in a Fairchild Metroliner III turboprop.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

[email protected]