Bangor International Airport

Bangor International Airport, or BGR, is a joint civil-military public airport in Penobscot County, Maine. It is home to the 101st Air Refueling Wing of the Maine Air National Guard. BGR serves the residents of central, eastern, and northern Maine and parts of Canada. It is run as an "enterprise fund," so the expenses of running it come from airport revenue. In 2019, there were 44,682 aircraft operations. The airport covers 2,079 acres, and there is one runway: 15/33, which is 11,440 by 200 feet (asphalt).

Airport history

BGR originated in 1921 as Godfrey Field, named after its owner, attorney Edward Rawson Godfrey. On August 19th, 1923, 15 Martin Bombers and 11 DeHaviland Scout Planes landed there on a practice mission (this is notable because that was essentially the entire U.S. Army Air Corps at the time). In 1931 regular passenger service began through Boston-Maine Airways under contract to Pan American, which was interested in the airport as a stop on a planned intercontinental air route to Europe. In 1937, the airport was equipped with floodlights, allowing night flights to be accommodated. In 1940 Boston-Maine became Northeast Airlines (merged with Delta Air Lines in 1972). Prior to WWII, the field was taken over by the Army Air Corps, becoming Bangor Army Air Field in the process (operating until 1968 as Dow Air Force Base and later on as Bangor Air National Guard Base). When the base closed, it was purchased mainly by the city, reopening in 1969 as Bangor International Airport. The parts not purchased became the National Guard Base and the Maine Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility. BGR averaged 3,000 to 5,000 commercial flights a year between the 1970s and 1990s, mostly charter jetliners. This was logical as Bangor was a refueling stop, and as a point of entry, passengers could go through customs and immigration while their plane was being refueled. Whereas much of the early airline action was courtesy of Northeast (and Delta in the 70s), USAir and United began service to BGR in the 80s. In April 2008, the FAA granted BGR $2.9 million to upgrade the terminal building and aviation equipment. The work added passenger space for gates two and three while also adding accommodations beyond security, including bathrooms and food and beverage vendors. In 2016 a $10 million modernization of the terminal’s first floor was completed.

Airport location

The airport is located on the west side of the city of Bangor. 

Airport facts

  • BGR was a stop on the 1948 round-the-world flight of Richarda Morrow-Tait, the first woman to pilot a plane around the globe. She landed at Dow but took off to Canada for her next leg from the nearby Old Town, only to be told by Canadian authorities to return to Bangor. She defied them and flew across the Atlantic to complete the trip. 
  • In 1977, Erwin Kreuz, a 50-year-old West German brewer, arrived in Bangor en route to San Francisco but thought he had reached his destination. As he spoke no English, he spent four days in Bangor looking for San Franciscan landmarks before realizing he was in the wrong city. His story made the news (both local and national), and Bangorians were so delighted with his error that he received the key to the city, met the Governor of Maine, was made an honorary member of the Penobscot Indian tribe, received a marriage proposal, and was even given a gift of local land. The San Francisco Chronicle paid for his flight to San Francisco, where he received similar treatment. The following year he was invited back to Bangor to open the Bangor Mall. 
  • BGR was the launch site of the Chrysler Trans-Atlantic Challenge Balloon Race in 1992. While the Belgian team won the race, it became notable as the US team (looking to avoid inclement weather) diverted south and landed just east of Casablanca, Morocco, becoming the first to travel from North America to Africa by balloon, setting endurance and distance records in the process. 
  • On July 8th, 2010, 10 captured Russian spies (members of the "Illegals Program) were deported, and their government-chartered aircraft that departed New York's Laguardia Airport stopped at Bangor for fuel. 
  • As BGR is the first airport for pilots incoming from Europe (or the last for those leaving the U.S.), it is a diversion airport and is a place to land an aircraft in case of bad weather, unruly passengers, or a whole host of other issues that may arise. The airport is paid for each diverted flight, and between 2004 and 2012, there were 647 unscheduled landings.

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