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Small plane makes landing on beach at Smith Point County Park

A small plane sits in the sand at

A small plane sits in the sand at Smith Point County Park, where it landed Saturday morning, Aug. 13, 2016. Credit: Newsday / David Schwartz

A small plane made an emergency landing Saturday on a stretch of ocean beach at Smith Point County Park, swooping low over startled sunbathers after its engine apparently failed.

The single-engine Cessna 150 came to rest on a deserted strip of sand just beyond a crowded swimming area. The pilot and his passenger emerged unscathed from the undamaged plane, authorities said.

“It was amazing — like a Captain Sully but on sand,” said Frank Esposito, 46, of Brooklyn, referencing Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s 2009 water landing dubbed “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Esposito was relaxing on the beach with his family shortly before noon when the red-and-white Cessna passed silently overhead like a glider.

“Not a sound,” he said.

The owner of the 25-foot-long, two-seat plane, Adrien Bazelais of Queens, identified the pilot as Henry Rey, also of Queens.

A certified flight instructor with decades of experience, Rey was on a training flight and heading back to Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley, Bazelais said.

Rey had been in the air about 45 minutes before the engine stalled, the owner said.

“This is what we train for. If you panic, you die,” Bazelais said.

At the popular beach on the eastern tip of Fire Island, Brie Claire Drost, of Wading River, was with friends when they saw the plane circle over the water and parking lot and level off, headed for the beach.

“It looked like it was coming right toward us. He made a turn where no one was,” Drost said. “One false move, it could’ve been different, but he did a great job landing it.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. The cause wasn’t immediately known, agency spokeswoman Arlene Salac said in an email.

After the landing, the pilot and his unidentified female passenger waited by the plane for authorities to arrive, taking refuge in the shade of the wing.

“It’s not a big deal,” the pilot said, declining further comment.

An occasional onlooker snapped photos, but most beachgoers simply resumed lounging and playing in the surf on a sizzling summer day, among them Chris Arnold, 51, of Blue Point.

Praising the “perfect” landing, he said: “It was almost uneventful, you could say.”

With Darran Simon


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