Lewiston, ME Famed School Girl Samantha Smith Killed in Airline Crash, Aug 1985

Famed school girl Samantha Smith

Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 was a scheduled flight from Boston Logan International to Bangor International on August 25, 1985.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; 2 for Auburn, 3 for Augusta and 1 for Waterville. At 9:17 pm 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 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 publishing its investigation 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.

This accident attracted unusual media attention for a small commuter plane accident. The two passengers who had boarded in Boston for Auburn/Lewiston were Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur Smith. A few years earlier Samantha had written Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov of her desire for peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. At Andropov's invitation she and her family toured the Soviet Union and helped ease tensions between the two countries. In 1985 ABC television hired her to be an actress on its new show Lime Street which would be filmed on location in London.

Samantha was only 10-years-old, but she made a very positive difference. She used her abilities and took action by expressing her concerns and asking questions... action that seems so simple, yet it made a huge difference. By writing a letter to the leader of the Soviet Union, she helped him, and the world, understand the concerns and fears of children in the United States, and throughout the world. Her loss was mourned by many in far corners of the world.

Compiled from public information and NTSB airline crash reports.