OWL'S HEAD (WGME) -- A little black box could have a big impact when it comes to your safety in the air. Two Augusta men invented a device they hope will prevent crashes like the one in Owl's Head that killed three men last year.
Less than a year later, it's still not clear what went wrong at a small airport in Rockland. And there is no way to know what the pilot said before he crashed because the radio communications at small airports aren't recorded.
The Rockland tragedy prompted Augusta state airport manager John Guimond to ask his electrical-supervisor friend Ron Cote for help. “Week to 12 days we had a prototype.”
The prototype is a small black box and software. It's called a General Audio Recording Device, or GARD™. “We record and capture all radio broadcast like what's going on now.”
The transmissions are filed away and can be listened to by managers. It's brand new technology that could help in investigations and also prevent them.
In the week GARD™ has been used at the Augusta State Airport, Guimond says they've identified certain situations where radios need to be used more often. There's also been positive feedback from four other Maine airports.
There are 42 public airports in Maine that the Department of Transportation works with. None of them have control towers, so the dot says it will reimburse those airports half the cost if they install the GARD™ system.
DOT officials say a count will help allocate resources and funding. The GARD™ system costs between $2,500 and $3,200.
It's been a surreal journey so far for these Mainers, one they hope will ultimately save lives.
Some 19,000 small airports across the country don't have control towers and could benefit from the GARD™ technology.