Air Traffic Controllers Mourn Death Of Fellow Controller Mark Haskell


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Air Traffic Controllers Mourn Death Of Fellow Controller Mark Haskell

By Steve Hall

July 20, 2010 – Air Traffic Controllers are mourning the death of a brother controller of Portland, Maine, veteran air traffic controller and experienced pilot Mark Haskell, 42, who was killed on Saturday along with one other pilot Thomas Casagrande, 66, when Mark’s single-engine, two-seat Yak-52 aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff about 3:30 PM from Portland International Jetport.  

The Yak-52 aircraft is a Soviet primary trainer aircraft which first flew in 1976. It is still being produced in Romania by Aerostar, which gained manufacturing rights under agreement within the now defunct COMECON socialist trade organization.

The Yak-52 was designed originally as an aerobatic trainer for students in the Soviet DOSAAF training organization, which trained both civilian sport pilots and military pilots. Since the early 1990s and the fall of the Soviet Union, many Yak 52s have been exported to the U.S. Of the approximately 1,800 produced to date, most now fly in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and other western countries.

Mark spent his entire 19-year FAA career as an air traffic controller at Portland (PWM). He also served as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) facility representative from 2008-2009. Mark and his family lived in Brunswick, Maine.

“Mark’s death in this terrible accident leaves all of us who knew him and his deep love of aviation very shocked and saddened,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi said.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Mark’s wife, Alison, his children, all of his family and friends, and his NATCA brothers and sisters at Portland Tower and TRACON, where he was loved and admired for his leadership, warm demeanor and sense of humor. We also extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Casagrande. We grieve with all of them today on their tragic loss.”


“Mark was a dedicated controller and, during his time as the facility representative of the Portland facility, leader as well. He always gave everything he had to every situation,” NATCA New England Regional Vice President Mike Robicheau said. “Mark was a true aviation enthusiast and worked hard to improve everything about the safety and effectiveness of the aviation system in Maine, from the airspace to the equipment.”

Current PWM NATCA Facility Representative Shaun Patten, who has been at PWM for three years, said because of the size of the facility – 20 controllers – everyone knew Mark well and is feeling a tremendous sense of loss. “He was just the nicest guy,” Patten said. “His smile greeted you every time you saw him. Not only was he a very dedicated and talented controller – very good at his job – he took new controllers under his wing and helped them out. Mark also had a great sense of humor. No matter how busy it got, he always had his sense of humor going and that set such an example for all of us.”

Mark’s aircraft was a Yakovlev Yak-52. The plane was purchased from the Romanian Air Force by Mark and his wife in 2001 and was named “Lizzy-Lou” in honor of their daughter, Elizabeth Louise, who was born on the day they signed the contract. “Mark took several controllers up in his plane. He always got people involved and loved to teach the new guys about it,” Patten said. “Mark was very active in putting together air shows and did all of the Brunswick and Portland shows in his plane. His plane was unique and very easy to find at the airport.”

Mark’s plane was “based primarily out of Auburn, Lewiston and Portland, Maine airports (and) she now flies to honor our vets past and present. The rear fuselage markings honor Warren H. Haskell, who served in the Army Amphibian Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific in WW-II.” (Manufacturers information sheet). If you would like to make a donation, a fund has been set up for the family.


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