Rockaway Pilot In The Record Book
By Howard Schwach
Look up one day while you are sitting on the beach, enjoying a nice, sunny Rockaway day.
Chances are, if you glance upwards, you will see Robert Magnicccari passing by.
The Rockaway pilot pulls those ubiquitous signs advertising everything from beer to new movies across the sky each beach day, back and forth from Coney Island to Atlantic Beach.
It is a mundane life, but Magniccari, who lives in Belle Harbor, is far from mundane. In fact, he will soon enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
Magniccari spent a 24 hour period landing and taking off in his Cessna 172, landing again…and again and again.
In fact, he registered 190 landings and takeoffs in a 24-hour period, breaking the old record of 157 by a full 33.
Why did the 15-year Rockaway resident do it?
"When I was ten years old, I saw the man who held the height record at a store opening," he says. "Right then I knew that I wanted to break a record and get into the record book. I know that some day I would find a record to break."
Magniccari, who owned his own automobile shop for years, learned to fly in 1999. He saw an article about the record for landings and takeoffs in a trade journal one day and decided that he could break the record.
It took him a year to find the perfect setup to break the record and to get permission for the try.
"The takeoffs and landings have to be at two airports that are at least ten miles apart," he told The Wave. "You have to find two airports that have no control tower, but that have lights for night landings."
There were New York City or Long Island airports that fit the bill. The present record-holder had done his flights in the plains of Texas.
In New Jersey, however, he found what he was looking for. Lakewood Airport and Miller Field in Ocean County were 10.1 miles apart. Neither had a control tower and both had night lights.
So, on a Tuesday a few weeks ago, he took off at 9 a.m. from MacArthur Airport on Long Island, headed for Jersey.
With the exception of 42 minutes on the ground for fuel and bathroom stops, he spent the next 24 hours taking off and landing between the two New Jersey airports. He made his final landing back at MacArthur.
The flights were not without incident. At one point, a police car awaited him when he landed.
"The residents nearby the field were getting nervous about a small plane landing during the early morning hours," he said. "Luckily, the cops knew about my try for the record and it was quickly straightened out."
Magniccari figures that it cost him about $3,500 to break the record. It took seventeen pages of documentation for Guinness to accept his claim. He figures that his record will not last forever.
"The next person who breaks my record will need a high-performance aircraft and a lot of luck," he says with a laugh.
"Records," he adds, "are made to be broken."