2011-04-08 / Front Page

Splash Crash Was Plane Nonsense

By Howard Schwach


The downed Cessna sits on the beach at Beach 58 Street on Monday night. See story page 38. Photo by Richard Watford. The downed Cessna sits on the beach at Beach 58 Street on Monday night. See story page 38. Photo by Richard Watford. A 24-year-old pilot who made a safe, but apparently illegal emergency landing in the surf at Beach 58 Street on Monday night was questioned by cops because he touched down without permission, law-enforcement sources have told The Wave, adding that the scene of the crash was treated as a crime scene for at least three hours.

The pilot, identified by police as Jason Maloney, took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, for a sightseeing trip over New York Harbor with his two friends, Clarke Oler, 22, and Chelsea Protter, 21, both from Suffolk County.

As he went west, he contacted the control tower at John F. Kennedy Airport and told controllers that one of his passengers had become “violently ill,” the sources said.

Maloney, who lives in upstate New York, and is reportedly studying medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., then asked for permission to land on the beach.


The beach was crowded with police, firefighters, NTSB and FAA officials and with workers towing the plane from the surf. Photo by Richard Watford The beach was crowded with police, firefighters, NTSB and FAA officials and with workers towing the plane from the surf. Photo by Richard Watford “This might be crazy, but are we allowed to land on the beach,” Maloney asked.

When the JFK controller denied the request, Maloney claimed he was experiencing a “rough engine” in the Piper PA-28, a small fourseat general aviation aircraft.

The controller then asked if Maloney wanted to declare an emergency.

He declined, aviation sources say.

Then Maloney asked if there were any private beaches nearby, the sources said. The controller repeated, “Not in the city. You don’t have permission to land.”

Disregarding the order from the controller not to land on the beach, Maloney landed in surf off Rockaway at about 7:05 p.m.


On Tuesday, police removed the plane from the beach and took it to an undisclosed location. Photo by Douglas Klemm On Tuesday, police removed the plane from the beach and took it to an undisclosed location. Photo by Douglas Klemm “I was looking out the window and we got close and next thing you know, we touched and the nose went down and the power just cut off,” Oler told WNBC/Channel 4.

An NYPD helicopter was in the air because a large jetliner, inbound to JFK Airport and about 50 miles from Rockaway, had declared an emergency because it had lost its hydraulics. The copter saw the small plane dropping towards the beach and was right behind it.

According to police sources, the plane was in shallow water and “the passengers could have walked to the shore,” but two police divers were put in the water to assist the three passengers and they helped pull them to the beach.

Witness Tyisha Williams told the New York Post, “I noticed a very small plane headed towards the beach unusually fast. I screamed to my friends, ‘Oh, my God! It’s gonna crash!’ ”


Passenger Clarke Oler sits in an ambulance. Photo by PJ Smith. Passenger Clarke Oler sits in an ambulance. Photo by PJ Smith. “It hit the beach hard and made a huge splash,” Williams, 23, said.

Maloney was limping after the accident, but he and his two passengers declined medical aid.

“The pilot was trying to cover his face, he was crying so much,” Williams said.

Maloney, who first told cops he’d gotten permission to land on the beach, was taken to the 101 Precinct station house for questioning, sources said.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that there were no charges pending against Maloney, but that the beach landing is a federal and not a state issue.

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that, since there were no fatalities, no injuries and little damage to the aircraft, the federal agency will not be investigating the crash.


Passenger Chelsea Protter awaits treatment. Photo by PJ Smith. Passenger Chelsea Protter awaits treatment. Photo by PJ Smith. The NTSB spokesperson added that whatever charges might be brought against Maloney would be brought by the Federal Aviation Administration, not local authorities or the NTSB.

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, whose agents were at the 101 Precinct, said that the federal agency is “investigating” and that he “cannot say [what federal punishments Maloney faces] until we understand the circumstances of the incident.”

“There are no criminal sanctions we can bring,” Peters said, “but we can bring civil sanctions if we believe he violated our regulations, which could include everything from doing nothing to suspending or revoking his [pilot’s] license.”

“We’re going to talk to everybody, from the air traffic controllers to the police to the pilot himself, Peters added. “We’re going to look at the plane and perhaps give the pilot a flight check to make sure he can handle the aircraft. When we’re through with a thorough investigation, then we’ll decide the next step.”

“The plane was flying under visual flight rules,” added Arlene Salac, another FAA spokesperson. “It was not necessarily being monitored by air traffic control. That is acceptable at low altitudes.”

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