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Experts: Suffolk's open airspace attracts pilots

Spadaro Airport's owner operator Bret Spadaro gives an

Spadaro Airport's owner operator Bret Spadaro gives an interview at the site where an ill-fated plane had taken off before crashing. (Oct. 21, 2012) Credit: John Roca

Private and recreational pilots gravitate to Suffolk County for its distance from the region's bustling commercial airports, aviation experts said Sunday.

"The airspace in New York gets very complicated with Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports," said Mike Busch, an aviation writer and Rockville Centre native based in California. "Suffolk is far away from that complex airspace."

Suffolk also offers more opportunity for pilots to fly using visual flight rules without communicating with air traffic controllers, Busch said.

Saturday's fatal crash in Moriches Inlet was the third small-plane crash with deaths or injuries in Suffolk since August.

Spadaro Airport, where the plane that crashed on Saturday originated, is popular for recreational pilots because it's "low-key," lacking a control tower and widely known as hassle-free to land at and leave from, Seattle-based aviation safety expert Todd Curtis said.

The small airport is one of several in the area, said Raymond Keenan, a member of a Brookhaven Calabro Airport advisory subcommittee.

Keenan said Brookhaven, Bayport Aerodome, Long Island MacArthur Airport, Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach and Spadaro are five airports close to his Shirley home. "We need to look at how many airports we really need at this point," he said.

Experts would not speculate on what caused Saturday's crash, but said there are hazards associated with small planes on Long Island, including flying over water.

"You have a whole bunch of risks that come into play that you don't have over land," Curtis said, citing emergency procedures such as opening plane doors before landing in water to prevent them from jamming.




Spadaro Airport is a privately owned, public-use airport located a mile northeast of downtown East Moriches.

Type: General aviation

Owner: Bart J. Spadaro

Runway length: 2,400 feet

Runway surface: Asphalt

Aircraft based at facility: 31

Single-engine airplanes: 14

Multiengine airplanes: 1

Helicopters: 1

Ultralights: 15

Average weekly aircraft operations: 117 per week (as of Sept. 2010, most recent data available)

Source: Federal Aviation Administration, aviation industry associations

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