HOULTON, Maine — It was the tap on the shoulder while he was at work, 43 years ago, that changed Jerome Hogan’s life forever.
“I can still see it happening right in front of me,” the Bangor man said recently. “One of my co-workers tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘isn’t Lewis Hogan Jr. your brother?’”
Hogan said he turned around to face his colleague.
“And I said, ‘yeah, why?’”
“He looked at me and said, ’because we heard on the radio that his plane is missing,’’’ he said, his voice breaking, the pain still as raw now as it was May 2, 1972.
Hogan’s 28-year-old brother, who he and his siblings called “Billy,” left Danbury, Connecticut, in a yellow and white single-engine Citabria at 8:15 a.m. and was expected to land at Houlton International Airport later that day.
The employee of LISAir was behind the controls of the brand new aircraft.
Authorities and search crews never found his remains or any trace of the plane.
The loss of his older brother took “a terrible toll on me over the years,” Jerome Hogan said during a recent interview.
Even though 43 years have passed since that day, Hogan said this week that with the technology that exists today, he would like to see the search reopened into his brother’s death.
“Maybe they could find the remains of the plane, or there is someone out there who has some memory of seeing his plane that day or has even seen something over the years that might be connected to the crash,” Hogan said.
Contacted this week, authorities at both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said that they had no records related to the May 1972 incident. The NTSB identifies the flight as a missing aircraft on its online accident database, but lists no details, such as the name of the pilot or a narrative of the incident. There are also errors on the form, such as Hogan’s age at the time of his death.
Hogan said that both his brother’s death and not being able to find out what happened in his final hours have haunted him.
“I was really close to my brother,” he said. “We did everything together. He was a good Catholic who served in the military and he loved to fly, and we used to have a lot of good times together when we would go to the Houlton Armory. Those memories are so vivid.”
According to news accounts from the time, Hogan was bringing the new aircraft to the fixed base operator at Houlton International Airport during what Jerome Hogan recalled as a “stormy day.”
The Maine Civil Air Patrol reported that on the day that Hogan went missing, a device called a VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range navigation system) was out of service at Augusta State Airport for four hours due to mechanical reasons. The VOR is a type of short-range radio navigation system that an aircraft uses to determine position and stay on course.
During that time, according to news accounts, when Hogan was in the Kennebunk area, he switched from the Kennebunk VOR and unsuccessfully attempted to switch onto the Augusta VOR. He failed because it was out of service, and it was then that he apparently got lost, authorities determined at the time. Jerome Hogan said that shortly after noon, officials at the FAA determined that his brother called a mayday, which was picked up by the FAA tower in what is now the Portland International Jetport.
It was 12:07 p.m. May 2, 1972.
“And that was the last anyone ever heard of him, when he called that mayday to the Portland tower,” he said. “We were told that he likely tried to turn around and head back to where he came.”
Approximately 40 planes searched western Maine and parts of the White Mountains of New Hampshire for Hogan’s plane for approximately a week before it was called off, according to Jerome Hogan.
“I would give anything to have my brother back, but I know that can’t happen.” Hogan said this week. “You never get over something like that. We all lost a piece of our heart when we lost Billy. I would give anything just to find out what happened that day.”