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Frank Fierro, LI pilot, makes second landing on Sunrise Highway

Pilot Frank Fierro walks next to his single-engine

Pilot Frank Fierro walks next to his single-engine ultralight Challenger plane which he was forced to land on the eastbound Sunrise Highway in Center Moriches after experiencing engine trouble on Friday, July 18, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

For the second time in eight days, a Lake Ronkonkoma man walked away from an emergency landing on busy Sunrise Highway after his plane experienced engine problems.

With the help of motorists who slowed to give him room, Frank Fierro safely landed his single-engine plane on the highway's eastbound lanes in East Moriches about 1 p.m. Friday.

Afterward, he credited a higher power rather than his piloting skills.

"Someone's watching out for me," he said.

Fierro, 75, believes a blown fuse caused the engine trouble about eight minutes after takeoff from Lufker and Spadaro airports in his Challenger experimental plane.

The pilot said he wanted to land on the shoulder, but a truck was in the way, forcing him to land on the highway lanes.

Police said Fierro taxied to the off-ramp at Exit 61 and stopped on a grassy shoulder.

Startled motorists called police. Suffolk County Highway Patrol and Seventh Precinct officers assisted in towing the plane back to the airport.

It was Fierro's first time flying the plane since making a nearly identical landing in the same plane on July 10. That time, he touched down on the highway median, also in East Moriches, after experiencing engine trouble shortly after takeoff.

The Federal Aviation Administration said both incidents are under investigation.

Fierro told police after the first emergency landing that he'd been flying since 1956. He said Friday that he worked for Pan Am as a mechanic until the airline shut down in 1991, and also as a flight instructor.

As he stood at the scene, he bit his lip and stared at the bright yellow plane, which he's owned for about a year.

The landing he made wasn't much different from a driver pulling a disabled car over to the side of the road, he said.

Fierro said he'll keep flying. But he was worried his wife would be upset and wouldn't make him dinner.

"I'll have to just keep quiet and settle for Taco Bell," he said.

With Gary Dymski


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