2011-04-29 / Top Stories

FAA Taking Close Look At Beach Pilot

By Howard Schwach

Police and Parks Department employees begin the process of taking the downed Cherokee off the beach. Police and Parks Department employees begin the process of taking the downed Cherokee off the beach. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking a close look at the pilot who landed his small Cherokee Warrior plane on the beach in Rockaway on April 4 and the Queens District Attorney is awaiting the federal agency’s determination before taking action of its own, officials in both agencies said this week.

“The investigation into the activities of Jason Maloney on the evening of April 4 are still under intensive investigation, said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, whose agents were at the 101 Precinct the night of the incident. “We cannot say [what federal punishments Maloney might face] until we understand the circumstances of the incident.”

“There are no criminal sanctions we can bring,” Peters added, “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.”

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 such as “Flying Wild Alaska,” 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,” recorded tapes from the traffic control center on Long Island (TRACON) show.

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.

Federal sources say that, had Maloney declared an official emergency when none existed, it would have been immediate grounds for pulling his pilot’s license.

Then Maloney asked if there were any private beaches nearby, the tapes show. 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.

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.

Recently, however, Brown’s office said that it is “investigating the incident” in contemplation of bringing charges of reckless endangerment or violating several city codes.

“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.

“They do this all the time in Alaska,” Maloney told one of the local precinct detectives when he was questioned on the beach.

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

The plane was pulled from the beach by a huge payloader and towed by truck to Boston, Massachusetts, where the aircraft leasing company is headquartered.

Officials say that the plane was inspected to see if anything was amiss with the engine or control services, but those officials declined to say if anything that could have disabled the plane and forced it to land on the beach was found.

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