A young pilot in training said he’s ready to get back in the air, days after surviving an emergency landing on a Robert Moses State Park beach.
Michael Pastore, 16, of Wantagh, was one of two students aboard the plane, in the middle of a lesson as part of Nassau BOCES’s Barry Tech aviation operations program. Officials on Monday said the plane experienced mechanical failure in flight, leading to a dramatic touchdown that caused the plane to flip over. The other student, also 16, was not identified.
Pastore has been in the program for about a year, but only had logged about three hours of flight time so far, he said. They were learning basic emergency procedures from the instructor, he said, and he was asked to work through a checklist to bring full power back to the plane.
But when Pastore went to bring the throttle — the engine power — back up, the engine didn’t respond, he said. His instructor took back the controls and tried himself, with the same result.
“The instructor then declared an emergency,” he said. “He got on the radio and said we were going to make an emergency landing.”
The landing itself was relatively “smooth,” he said. After cruising for a few feet on the beach, though, the wheels of the four-seater Cessna 172 accumulated sand and the plane flipped over. The group was sprayed with glass from the broken windows, but they all climbed out of the plane uninjured.
“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to die,’ I was doing what the pilot said to do. It only hit me around two hours later,” he said. “Then it was just a lot of nervous energy.”
Officials on Monday identified the supervising flight instructor as Brandon Sax, 26, of Port Washington, who is affiliated with Nassau Flyers, an aviation company based at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. Sax said he was not able to comment Wednesday, citing a Federal Aviation Administration investigation.
The BOCES program uses Nassau Flyers to support their aviation program, the school said. About 30 students a year are taught the basics of flying, and many go on to earn pilot’s licenses, said Barry Tech Principal Peter Dalton. They graduate the program with about 20 hours of flight time, he said, and have never had a problem.
“We understand there are inherent risks in aviation, but all’s well that ends well,” he said.
Emergency landing procedures are an essential part of learning to fly, said Robert Rockmaker, president and CEO of the Flight School Association of North America, which accredits flight schools. FSANA is not affiliated with Nassau Flyers.
Rockmaker said in a typical practice procedure, an instructor might bring a plane to a couple hundred feet above the ground and then lower the throttle to simulate a partial or total power loss, and then teach the student what to do next. It is not typically unsafe, he said.
An FAA spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.
For the Pastore family, it was a tense start to the week, but they’ve been able to relax in the days since the landing, said Mike Pastore, Michael’s father. Michael Pastore, meanwhile, is ready to get back in the air.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m going flying this Friday and Saturday and I can’t wait.”