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Plane lands on Sunken Meadow State Park beach, officials say

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A small plane made an emergency landing on the beach at Sunken Meadow State Park on March 11, 2016, authorities said. The FAA said the plane was a Cessna and the two people on board were not injured. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Flight instructor Robert Keleti never had to make an emergency landing in more than three decades of flying — until Friday.

During a routine training flight, the Cessna 152’s engine suddenly failed shortly before 11 a.m., authorities said.

Keleti, 61, quickly found his landing strip — a stretch of beach at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park — and guided the small plane down safely.

The Brooklyn resident and his student, Bar Eliran, 43, of Manhattan, walked away unharmed.

“I’m OK. I’m good,” said Keleti, who was already thinking about his next lesson.

In his distress call to the control tower at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, he said calmly: “I am east [of] Northport, I have to land on the shore or the beach,” according to LiveATC.net, which provides air traffic control broadcasts.

“Good luck, Robert,” the tower said.

State park police responded to the scene at the east end of the North Shore park, said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of state parks.

A witness, Tim Bent of Kings Park, was out taking a walk when he saw the plane flying dangerously low — about 50 feet off the ground.

Minutes later, when he saw the plane on the beach, he was impressed by the pilot’s skill. “I have to tell you, the guy did a good job. There’s no damage to the plane,” he said.

The 1978 Cessna left a row of tracks in the hard-packed sand, coming to rest just short of the Long Island Sound surf. The plane is owned and operated by Long Island Aviators, based at Republic.

Gregory Semendinger, a company owner, said the plane, whose engine had been replaced, left Republic and made the approximately 10-minute flight to the area over Sunken Meadow, an instructional practice zone.

“They were up here just getting instruction and lessons, and the engine got rough and he put it down. He did a great job,” Semendinger said of Keleti, who works for Long Island Aviators.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

The emergency landing is among a rash of incidents involving private aircraft on Long Island in the past year.

A single-engine Cirrus SF 22 used its emergency parachute to crash-land last weekend in a Hauppauge industrial park. No injuries were reported.

Another small plane ran out of fuel and ditched last month in Setauket Harbor. Three aboard were rescued; a passenger remains missing and is presumed dead.

Gorman saluted the pilots’ instinct to head for “barren” locations when flights go awry — though he cautioned that emergency landings on crowded summer beaches would be far more hazardous than during the offseason.

Keleti said he wasn’t scared when the engine lost power. He relied on his experience — more than 30 years of flying in Israel and the United States.

“I just do what I have to do,” he said.

With Joan Gralla

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