Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808
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|Date||August 25, 1985|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain|
|Site||Auburn, Maine, United States
|Aircraft type||Beech 99|
|Operator||Bar Harbor Airlines|
|Flight origin||Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts|
|1st stopover||Auburn/Lewiston Municipal Airport, Auburn, Maine|
|2nd stopover||Waterville Robert LaFleur Airport, Waterville, Maine|
|3rd stopover||Augusta State Airport, Augusta, Maine|
|Destination||Bangor International Airport, Bangor, Maine|
Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 was a scheduled flight from Logan International Airport to Bangor International Airport in the United States on August 25, 1985. On final approach to Auburn/Lewiston Municipal Airport, the Bar Harbor Airlines Beechcraft Model 99 crashed short of the runway, killing all six passengers and two crew on board. Among the passengers was Samantha Smith, a thirteen-year-old American schoolgirl who had become famous as a "Goodwill Ambassador" to the Soviet Union and who had been cast on the television show Lime Street.
Flight 1808 normally stopped en route at Augusta and Waterville, Maine. The flight crew flew the aircraft from Bangor to Boston and back earlier that afternoon in worsening weather. On the second trip, they were advised at an en route stop in Augusta that because of air traffic control delays in Boston, their return flight 1788 via Auburn/Lewiston, Maine, was being cancelled. They would instead operate the later flight 1808 with Auburn added as a flag stop to accommodate passengers from flight 1788.
Flight 1808 boarded in Boston with 6 passengers; two for Auburn, three for Augusta and one for Waterville. A fourth passenger had actually checked in for Augusta, but did not respond to boarding calls, so the flight left without him. At 9:17 p.m. EDT, the captain radioed for their clearance to Auburn. The controller, unaware of the change in routing, advised they were filed to Augusta. The captain accepted the routing, but advised they would amend their routing after passing Pease VOR, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Auburn. They departed the ramp at 9:26 pm and were cleared for takeoff from runway 4L at 9:30 pm.
At 10:00 pm, they radioed the station agent at Auburn/Lewiston Municipal Airport for the latest weather. The agent reported a 300' obscured, indefinite ceiling, visibility of 1 mile in light drizzle, wind 020° (north-northeast) at 4 knots, altimeter 30.24 InHg. Shortly after this, the crew was advised by a controller in Portland that they were drifting east of the ILS approach course to runway 4 at Auburn. He advised them to turn to heading 340 to intercept. The captain responded "OK". Almost a minute later, the controller advised them they were passing the Lewie NDB beacon at the outer marker for the approach and asked if they were receiving it. The first officer responded "affirmative". The controller then cleared them to switch to the airport's frequency, which was acknowledged by the first officer. This was the last transmission received from the flight. Portland controllers were notified less than 10 minutes later that the plane had crashed at 10:05 pm.
In the aftermath of the accident, investigators were hindered by the absence of cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder information. The Beech 99 was not a large enough plane for the FAA to require their installation. There was also no record of which pilot was to have flown the aircraft. Both pilots had used the radio during the flight instead of the non-flying pilot. Examination of radar data from Portland showed that after the plane turned to course 340 to intercept the approach, it flew through the approach and had to correct to get back on course. Investigators noted that this instruction meant the flight crew had to make a 60-degree turn less than one mile from the approach outer marker. Altitude data transmitted by the aircraft transponder showed the plane did not begin its descent along the precision glide slope until it was above it after passing Lewiston. This may have caused the flight crew to rush both the descent and the approach. The actual altimeter settings on both the captain's and the first officer's altimeters could not be determined due to fire and impact damage to the instruments. The aircraft flew into trees less than one mile from the end of runway 4 and struck the ground less than 500 feet (150 m) to the right of the extended runway center line. There were no survivors.
In publishing its report, the National Transportation Safety Board noted that the controller in Portland used "poor judgment" assisting the flight. However, it concluded that the captain accepted the large course correction and the crew continued flying an unstabilized approach instead of executing a missed approach. As well, the flight crew attempted to stabilize the approach while allowing the plane to fly below the instrument glide slope. The incorrect altimeter settings may have caused this descent to continue below the published decision height. At night in low visibility, the crew may have been unaware of their true position. The NTSB recommended a review of controller procedures for outlying airports without ground radar. The 60-degree turn less than one mile from the outer marker would violate approach guidelines for radar-assisted arrivals to Portland International Jetport for example. It further recommended aircraft for hire capable of carrying six or more passengers be equipped with flight recorders.
This accident attracted unusual media attention for a small commuter plane accident. Two of the three passengers headed for Augusta were Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur. Three years earlier she had written to Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov regarding her desire for peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. Andropov, in his reply, invited her and her family to tour the Soviet Union. In 1985, ABC hired her to be an actress on its new show Lime Street, which was filmed on location in London. She and her father were headed home during a break from shooting when the fatal accident occurred.
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- Board blames pilot errors in commuter airline crashes