An 80-year-old pilot who survived a crash-landing on Shelter Island is "extremely qualified" at the controls and co-owner of at least two aviation companies, colleagues said Tuesday.
Michael Russo, of Shelter Island, remained in serious condition Tuesday night at Stony Brook University Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
"He's pretty shaken up and his body is going to be sore. Overall, he's very lucky," said James Pugh, a friend who spoke to Russo hours after the Monday night crash.
Russo belongs to the Shelter Island Pilots' Association, said Pugh, a group spokesman.
"He's probably got more hours than anybody on the island . . . He's extremely qualified," he said.
Shelter Island police said Russo crash-landed his single-engine Cessna 162 about 6:20 p.m. in a field near Klenawicus Airfield shortly after taking off.
A preliminary investigation indicated the plane hit the ground nose-first, police said. Two bystanders freed Russo, who sustained leg and chest injuries.
Pugh said Russo told him his controls failed after takeoff.
Family members declined to comment.
Russo is co-owner of Northeastern Aviation Corp., a Farmingdale-based aircraft charter and management company, general manager Peter Montemurro said.
Russo serves as president and director of operations but doesn't fly for the company, Montemurro said.
The Cessna is registered to SMC Aviation, based at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. Montemurro said Russo is also a co-owner of SMC, an aircraft maintenance company.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, is working with the Federal Aviation Administration.