2004-07-09 / Front Page

Splash-Crash Pilot Will Fly Over This Weekend

Splash-Crash Pilot Will Fly Over This Weekend

The out-of-towner pilot who was forced to put his small banner-towing plane down in Jamaica Bay on July Fourth retrieved his soggy license on Monday and was back in the air almost immediately, according to his employer.

"He’s out flying the Jersey Shore today," Jim Butler, the proprietor of the Aerial Sign Company based in Hollywood, Florida, told The Wave on Wednesday. "He’s chugging up and down the beaches!"

Jonathan Ramsey Shockley, a 25-year-old commercial pilot from Phoenix, was unfazed by his perilous plunge and was eager to return to the sky. He’s scheduled to fly along the Rockaway coast this weekend.

"He was not shaken in the slightest bit," said U.S. Park Police Marine Unit Officer Tim Cosgro. "He very calmly got out of the plane."

Butler commended Shockley, who has been under his employ for the last three months. "He did a good job.

"He’s aggressive but not overly aggressive – very businesslike," said Butler.

Shockley, who wanted to land at Floyd Bennett Field but realized he would come up short, avoided land, packed beaches and boat traffic.

His wild ride began shortly after he took off from a New Jersey airport. His motor "went rough," Butler said, and began pouring white smoke about half way between Sandy Hook, New Jersey and Breezy Point.

Shockley jettisoned the advertising banner near the Ambrose Light and made a "beeline for Floyd Bennett," Butler said.

He hit the bay near Kingsborough Community College at about 4 p.m. Water pounded the windows of his Cessna and the plane flipped end over end, but Shockley was dry and uninjured.

"It sounded like a thunderstorm for a minute," Shockley told his boss.

He pulled himself out onto the wing of his plane and then jumped on the back of a water scooter that came over to assist. The U.S. Park Police Marine Unit was patrolling the area and was on the scene immediately with Marine II, a high-tech vessel with extraordinary rescue capabilities. Sergeant Arthur and Officers Closs and Neary took Shockley aboard and tethered his plane. Marine III and IV responded, with the latter towing the plane to Riis Landing.

Shockley’s adventure was only about halfway through, however.

"He had no money, no wallet, no nothing," said Cosgro. "He didn’t have a penny on him."

The few items Shockley had with him – his wallet, pilot license and cell phone – went down in the plane and the ambitious aviator told reporters on the scene that he wanted to return to the sky as soon as possible.

"Man, I don’t want to miss work!" Shockley told his boss after the incident.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations require pilots to be in possession of their licenses. So, Butler said Shockley used his "Irish charm" to finagle overnight accommodations and returned the next day to recover his belongings when the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the FAA had the plane hoisted onto a barge.

Butler, whose father began his aerial advertising business in 1950, also kept cool – he jokingly asked Shockley if he caught any fish with the plane.

"We’re very happy nobody was hurt," said Butler. "No charge for the excitement!"

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