Stunt airplane lands safely on Route 231 after engine seizes
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A pilot training for an air show landed a single-engine stunt plane on Route 231 in Babylon Thursday afternoon after the engine seized and all three propeller blades snapped in midair.
Witnesses said the gliding plane landed safely in the southbound lanes, squeezing between cars and trucks.
The pilot, David Windmiller, 49, of Melville, scrambled out of the cockpit uninjured shortly before 1 p.m.
When the engine trouble started, the Zivko Edge 540 was 2,200 feet off the ground. Windmiller was returning to Republic Airport in East Farmingdale after practicing maneuvers over the ocean.
"Mayday, mayday, mayday," he called to the airport's control tower. "I don't know where I'm going down, but I'm going down someplace . . . major engine failure."
Windmiller said later that he was too far from Republic to land there, so he scanned the Earth below for alternatives.
"I looked at fields, but I saw people playing," he said. "I looked at yards. I looked at Sunrise [Highway], but there was too much traffic."
His glide time running out, he opted for Route 231. "It was to the last second," he said.
He managed a hard landing, brakes screeching as he maneuvered the plane to a grassy area near the John Street exit.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said an aviation safety inspector from the agency's Farmingdale office interviewed Windmiller at the scene but that a full investigation could take several months.
Windmiller, a real estate developer and father of five, said he's been flying since he was 14, logging 17,500 flight hours -- some spent representing the nation in the World Aerobatic Championships in France in 2000. The plane is registered to Lumcavok Aviation in Bear, Del.
Three state transportation workers who witnessed the landing said Windmiller was "cool as a cucumber" when he emerged from the plane.
"The new Sully," said one of the DOT workers, Gerard Cappiello, in a nod to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River off Manhattan in 2009 with all 155 passengers and crew surviving.
Windmiller intends to fly again soon. He needs to get in more practice time before the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach on May 25-26.
"Something like this," he said, "is just a part of flying, unfortunately."
With Gary Dymski