“In the City” article by Scott Wardwell, Airport Director
The Northern Maine Regional Airport has played a critical role in many history making events. The Airport has a unique resource to preserve this history for local residents and visitors alike. It is called the Presque Isle Air Museum. The distinguished history of the airport is chronicled from its humble beginnings as a grass airstrip with one hangar to today with the second largest commercial runway in the State of Maine. The museum presents the unique history of the airport through photographs and a small number of static displays. Over the last couple of years, these displays have been upgraded with more to come. The museum’s collection can be viewed inside the passenger terminal at 650 Airport Drive.
In early 1930, stock certificates were issued in the name of the Presque Isle Airport Company to fund the construction of the airport. One of those stock certificates can be viewed at the museum. The crowning achievement of the first year of operation was the shipment of Maine Potatoes to President Herbert Hoover. Photographs of the famous aviator Clarence Chamberlin, a close transatlantic competitor of Charles Lindbergh’s, can be seen. While on a barnstorming tour around the country, Chamberlin visited the area with a Ford Trimotor. During his time here, he met his future wife, Louise Ashby of Fort Fairfield. A photograph of his unusual wedding present to her is part of the museum collection.
In the 1940’s, the small municipal airport was transformed into a bustling airbase. With over 700 civilians and military personnel having constructed 60 buildings in 60 days, the Presque Isle Airport became the Presque Isle Army Airfield. The small little grass airstrip had become the closest major airbase on US soil to the war in Europe. Cargo transport activities grew to one of the largest airlifts of the time called the “Snowball Express.” In 1943, the first, last and only flight of U.S. single-engine fighters to cross the North Atlantic to England passed through Presque Isle. Ernest “Bus” Loane, Jr., a native son of Presque Isle and a member of the famed Flying Tigers, is remembered. As the crossroads for the European War supply effort, Presque Isle Army Airfield played host to numerous dignitaries such as Bob Hope, Clark Cable and Jimmy Stewart on their way to Europe. Numerous photographs and static displays from this historic era can be viewed.
The Cold War period saw a great amount of activity at the airport as well. In 1949, the airfield was designated as the Presque Isle Air Force Base. It fulfilled a critical Air Defense mission of this part of the country with various fighter aircraft stationed at the base. In 1959, Presque Isle Air Force Base became the site of the nation’s first operational intercontinental missile wing. The wing was equipped with 30 Snark missiles capable of striking Moscow. A great deal of this era is splendidly captured in photographs and static displays. The Snark missile display is currently being redone.
A visit to the museum is a great activity while you are waiting for your next flight. I also recommend a special trip to the museum with the family. It is a unique blend of local history that captures the significant contributions that your airport and the citizens of the area made to world history.