AUGUSTA, Maine —We’ll probably never know what led to a fatal airplane crash at the Knox County Airport last year because no radio transmissions were ever recorded.
In that crash, a small plane that was taking off clipped a pickup truck crossing the runway, killing Marcelo Rugini, an exchange student from Brazil, David Cheney of Beverly, Mass., and BJ Hanigan, a University of Maine graduate from Portland.
But today, a new device developed by two men from Maine is allowing small, towerless airports to record and save those transmissions.
It’s called the General Audio Recording Device.
John Guimond began developing the device within days after three men died in that Knox County Crash.
"It was that comment that we'll never really know because the audio was lost, it was never recorded,” Guimond said.
Guimond, who is manager of the Augusta Airport, teamed with his friend Ron Cote, an electronics specialist, to develop the GARD system, a small recording setup general aviation airports can use for a variety of situations.
"Training, for data recording, and also for accident investigation," Guimond said.
Relatively inexpensive, about $2,500, it’s taken just a few months for word of the GARD to reach small airports around the world.
"We’re getting emails from New Guinea. We’re getting emails from Australia. I looked at John, I said, ‘What did we create?" Cote said.
In Maine, the device quickly caught the Department of Transportation’s attention.
The DOT is so impressed with the training capabilities it has offered to split the cost of installation with each of Maine’s nearly four dozen towerless airports.
"The key thing for us is that prevention of finding out discrepancies that might be happening during flights or during things the ground crew was doing and actually correcting that before you have an accident,” said Scott Rollins, state aviation director with the DOT.
The transmissions can be saved for decades, in the event of any mishap or crash, providing tangible evidence where just a few months ago it might be just a guess.
"Giving some people some comfort that I said this and I did everything I could, everything I was supposed to do,” said Guimond.