2011-04-15 / Top Stories

Beach Pilot Has Problems With Feds,Queens DA

By Howard Schwach

The downed Cessna sits on the beach at Beach 58 Street on Monday night. The downed Cessna sits on the beach at Beach 58 Street on Monday night. The pilot who was determined to land his small Cherokee Warrior plane on the beach at Rockaway April 4 is in hot water with both federal and state authorities over his dangerous stunt.

The pilot, identified by police as Jason Maloney, 24, 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.

Maloney apparently wanted to give his passengers a thrill and decided that a beach landing, which he said he had seen on cable television shows a number of times, fit the bill.

As he flew 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.

“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.”

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 Beach 58 Street and the Ocean Village houses at about 7:05 p.m. The three managed to climb out of the aircraft without assistance, although a police helicopter had deposited two divers into the water nearby.

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

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.

Right after the incident, 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.

This week, however, Brown’s office is “investigating the incident” in contemplation of bringing charges of reckless endangerment or violating several city codes, an officials said.

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the lead in the investigation, and at this point, we’re waiting to see what their results are,” a spokesperson for Brown said.

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, whose agents were at the 101 Precinct the night of the incident, 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.”

City Councilman Peter Vallone, the chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, has called on the FAA to pull Maloney’s license.

“Maloney must face the harshest punishment,” he said. “A pilot who abuses the privilege of flying, at a minimum should have his license revoked.”

Maloney told investigators that he had seen a pilot land on a beach in Alaska on the program “Flying Wild Alaska,” and that it looked easy.

“They do it all the time in Alaska,” Maloney told one of the local precinct detectives.

“Welcome to New York City,” the detective reportedly answered.

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