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Schumer urges study of New York State small plane crashes

Sen. Chuck Schumer holds a photo of last

Sen. Chuck Schumer holds a photo of last month's small plane crash in Bayonne, New Jersey, during a news conference at his Manhattan office on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The plane originated at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on federal transportation safety investigators to launch an in-depth study into the state’s spate of small plane crashes — including 10 on Long Island in the past year.

“We’re only a few months into 2017 and already we’ve seen two small plane crashes here in the New York metro area,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan, referring to two incidents involving planes from Long Island last month.

On Feb. 26, a vintage single-engine plane that took off from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale crashed and burst into flames near Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, killing the pilot and a passenger, and injuring another passenger.

On Feb. 19, a single-engine Piper PA-28 plane that also took off from Republic crashed into a residential area of Bayonne, New Jersey, narrowly missing a home, according to authorities. The pilot suffered minor injuries in the accident.

“The bottom line here is when small planes are crashing smack in the middle of neighborhoods . . . you’ve got to start demanding answers,” Schumer said.

In a letter to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart, Schumer, the Senate minority leader, requested that the agency study New York’s small plane accidents over the past year to determine whether there are preventable patterns or trends.

Schumer raised concerns about the prevalence of such accidents on Long Island, noting that of the state’s 18 small plane crashes last year, 10 had ties to Long Island.

NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said in a phone interview that the agency would respond to Schumer’s request once it had the opportunity to fully review his letter.

Last year’s accidents were the most Long Island had seen since 2012, when eight small plane crashes were investigated, according to NTSB figures. In 2010 there were 11 crashes investigated, the most in any year since at least 2000, according to the agency’s database.

While Long Island has experienced an uptick in small plane crashes, nationally the number of fatal small plane accidents has dropped from 272 in 2010 to 238 in 2015, according to the most recent figures available from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Michael Canders, director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College, said FAA and NTSB data already indicates that human error is the leading cause of small plane crashes nationally, but said Long Island probably has larger numbers in comparison with the rest of the state because it’s in a “busy airspace” with proximity to New York City.

Joseph Loccisano, president of the Long Island Business Aviation Association, called Schumer’s request a “prudent” move given the spike of incidents on Long Island.

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