Saturday afternoon, an apparent engine malfunction caused a small plane from Danbury, Conn., to make an emergency landing on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, N.Y.
Formally registered to Michael Schwartz of New York, the four-seat, single-engine 1966 Piper PA plane was returning its three passengers from a tour of the Statute of Liberty when problems occurred. Air traffic control audio revealed that the engine had lost power while in flight, initiating the pilot’s emergency landing.
Miguel Lopez, a supervisor with the Department of Transportation, said, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, when the plane hit the ground it came straight down and hit the treetop.” In order to prevent oncoming cars from crashing into the downed plane, Lopez blocked the roadway with his truck and successfully stopped further chaos from erupting.
Although the plane and its three passengers did not sustain anything but minor injuries, pilots of private airplanes and the owners of private aircraft a can be held liable for damages under the “vicarious liability” legal theory. If mechanical failure or other flaws played a role in an aviation crash, other parties, such as the manufacturers of the aircraft and / or its components, may be held liable under product liability and strict liability claims.
By some estimates, mechanical failures cause up to 22 percent of aviation crashes. Historically, aircraft manufacturing defects, flawed aircraft design, inadequate warning systems, and inadequate instructions for safe use of the aircraft’s equipment or systems have contributed to numerous aviation crashes. In such cases, the pilot may follow every procedure correctly but still be unable to avert disaster.
The weekend accident may have caused massive traffic backups and shut down the expressway’s northbound lanes for several hours, but city officials said it could have been much worse.
Once the engine trouble began, the pilot of the small aircraft was forced to send out a distress call. After being advised by the air traffic control operator to touch down at LaGuardia Airport, the pilot said, “I’ll never make it.” The operator then replied, “I’m not sure where you can touch down if you’re not going to make it” before listing a few possible non-conventional landing locations, including the Major Deegan Expressway.
“We have an extraordinary situation and actually a miracle, thank God, that happened today in our city,” said Mayor de Blasio.