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Yorktown Small Plane Crash Survival Called a 'Miracle'

Two injured, with minor injuries, as private plane makes forced landing because of mechanical problems.

Two people suffered minor injuries Friday afternoon when a small plane made a forced landing in Yorktown, NY, on its way to Norwood Memorial Airport, MA, according to local, county and federal officials.

The area of the crash scene is at the entrance of the IBM research facility at Pines Bridge Road, just north of the town border with New Castle. Officials said the plane, a BE36 Beechcraft, was en route from Teterboro (NJ) Airport when it developed mechanical problems and the pilot attempted to divert to Westchester County Airport. 

Officials said the two men in the plane were treated at the scene by medics and then taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. They were conscious and alert with non-life threatening injuries when emergency responders arrived at the scene. 

"This is a miracle," Lt. Robert Noble said of the crash and the way it ended. "I mean it really is. It's a miracle there wasn't a fatality."

The plane was reported to have crashed at 4:35 p.m. as it entered the field from the northeast. It belly landed on the grassy field, up on a small hill. 

"It's a tragedy that was averted here," Lt. Noble said. 

Police were still speaking with witnesses about the situation and officials were trying to get a handle on the pilot's injuries. 

"Thankfully he landed and did a hell of a job landing," Lt. Noble said. 

Sal Lagonia, of Yorktown, who is an aviation lawyer and a safety consultant, said it looks like the pilot was intentionally looking for an open field to land. He diverted to the Westchester County Airport, but had to land sooner.

"There's a billion things that could go wrong," Lagonia said. "It looked like he had to find a place to come down. That's what pilots typically do."

The plane is a 1996 private aviation craft that is registered to Mark Ehrenzeller of Hopkinton, MA. Officials have not yet confirmed the identities of the two men. It was not clear whether Ehrenzeller was the pilot. 

Neighbors, IBM employees and children in the area surrounded the site, which is just a few hundred yards from the day care center Country Children's Center on Pines Bridge Road. 

Michell Cambareri, who lives near by on Crow Hill Road, was walking her dog when she said she saw the plane flying low near the trees. There was no smoke or flames coming out of the plane, but she heard the engine sputtering.

"I saw the plane flying in the air, having engine difficulty and it was sputtering," she said. "Then, it looked liked the pilot was trying to turn on the engine again, but every time he tried, it just cut off."

Click on the video above for more on the story.

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Les Hendrickson April 23, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Small planes are safer than ANY SUV ever thought of being. Especially with all the idiot SUV owners on the road today. The day is coming when mankind will finally realize just how damaging SUVs are to the ecosystem and the Arabs will price themselves into extinction. Mark my words. It's no threat, just fact.
robert poznanski April 23, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Being a former pilot, it appears as if this guy did, what he had to do, and was "lucky enough to find a open area, to put it down in! As the old saying goes, "any landing (emergency) that you can walk away from,is a good landing!" Small planes do have better power off landing abilities, then a commercial craft, (next to none) so this is not that big a deal!! As usual, thank God, no body was hurt!!
Diogenes01 April 23, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Arabs?? ? Really
Jeff April 23, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I'll bet there are a lot of people want to tout the word hero about this pilot. Let's all remember, he was on the flight also. He saved his own bacon as well as that of his passenger's. A hero? No. A damn good pilot? Every bit of that.
Jaguar Jeff April 23, 2012 at 04:14 PM
FACT: It is six times safer to travel a distance in a small plane versus travelling by car. You are much more likely to get into an auto accident of some sort. Most small planes were built in the 1950's through 1980's. Many of them have never had any type of accident. Try to find a car that age that hasnt even had one fender bender!
Libby Brockman April 23, 2012 at 04:17 PM
TO: ROBERT POZNANSKI: Amen, brother.......I, too, am a former general aviation pilot......single engine and VFR only. But my Dad was VFR, IFR, and multi-engine rated, and owned a Beechcraft Travelair B95 ---- I feel sorry for the individual who thinks that "small aircraft" are INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS (LOL) ........I'll take a Cessna 152 ANYDAY over driving to the grocery store !!! And yes, I totally agree with you, that small plane power off landings do indeed heavily increase your chance of survival. Thanks, Robert for your great post and positive comments about general aviation. Libby Brockman, Batesville, Arkansas, formerly born and raised in the great SOUTHERN part of Illinois !!!
Kenneth Ulrich April 23, 2012 at 04:38 PM
With 60 years flying behind me, from 40 HP cubs to DC-10's this pilot kept his cool, did it right, I couldn't do what he did, in a MD-80, so who says light planes are not safe, ignorant thinking to say the least.....Ken
martyn hawkins April 23, 2012 at 04:42 PM
They do, although I can't remember the flavor. One was the plane that flew into the side of a building in NY and flown by an baseball star and the most recent was just outside Charlotte, NC. I believe it was flown by a fellow named Beck who made a chunk of change selling Mercedes and then selling his dealerships. Interestingly, that particular plane has a history of being difficult to fly.
Joyce Savia April 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Good afternoon from an "out of towner". First of all, I'm so glad no one was seriously hurt in this plane crash. My question is: How does someone (e.g., an "out of towner" like me) reading a Patch article, know where the story originated? There could be a "Yorktown" in many states (there's one in VA, where I live). By going to your home page, I learned this Yorktown is in New York. Is there some way to know this without having to go to another page? I've had this same problem with other Patch or similar articles that suddenly go national. Is it the responsibility of the news source that puts such an article on a national feed to somehow identify the geographic source of the story? Thanks for your time in regard to this matter.
joel April 23, 2012 at 05:13 PM
totally agree , small plane can crash land on a "dime " nice meadow , now can if we get all these peoples off the grass they do more damage to it than the plane landing .
joel April 23, 2012 at 05:16 PM
they do . and the manufacturer had only limited success . parachutes are only effective at a certain altitutde. after that they are only useless decoration to mark the crash site
chris April 23, 2012 at 05:19 PM
they do make small plane parachutes have had them for some
joel April 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM
You get your fact reversed if it has been a larger aiplane , all the Hero in the red truck would be gatheing body part pinned in the trees , they also would have been a fire ball due to large amount of fuel , I seriousely doubt anyone would have walked away from that specific crash. The only place in the country with large numbers of small planes crash is Alaska and they are mostly weather related , in this case it seem to have been somekind of engine failure and this is fairly rare , small plane owner take less short cut that major air carrier as per a study of the FAA for a good reason The pilots are flying their own plane .
Jessie Hyman April 23, 2012 at 05:37 PM
fuel starvation? no fire? Good landing.
Jessie Hyman April 23, 2012 at 05:38 PM
fuel starvation? no fire? Good landing.
Wendy April 23, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I don't know of any parachute that can be retrofitted on to an existing plane. Cirrus makes a chute-equipped plane, and despite the let's-make-everything-as-automatic-as-possible attitude (the propeller automatically shifts pitch form takeoff to cruising so the pilot doesn't have to remember, and the laning gear is fixed so the pilot doesn't have to remember to lower it before landing) they took with the design and extensive testing of the chute function they did before putting the plane on the market, they've already been sued by an idiot who managed to get into a worse situation with by deploying the chute than he would have been without it. (Oh, yeah. And one of their test pilots died testing it.)
Richard Alexander April 23, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Contrary to what joel says, small planes have long been known as less safe than large aircraft. As one narrator of one aircraft safety video said several decades ago following crash tests at a government testing facility, "The lesson seems to be, 'Don't crash in small aircraft.'" Crashes in small aircraft are less survivable than crashes in large aircraft, though improvements have been made.
al smith April 23, 2012 at 06:06 PM
You'd be surprised at what you can do when you have to. I mean what other option did he have? He was coming down whether he wanted to or not and it only makes common sense to find the best place you can to land. Otherwise cover your eyes and scream like a little girl but that's not going to help.
al smith April 23, 2012 at 06:13 PM
These are the same people that if you ask them directions to some place they'll tell you to turn left at the big oak tree and continue on until you see the red barn on the left after you pass the hairpin turn and from there it's just a stones throw before you see it on the right just past Cooter's Garage on the left.
William Fisher April 23, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I wonder how many car crashes there were that day within, say, 25 miles? How many fatals? Guess I won't know but I'd guess there were a number. I think this pilot did a good job, did as all pilots were trained to do, and the outcome was good. I myself had an inflight engine failure two years ago, landed on a farm and absolutely no damage to plane or pilot. And no, not a common event, I've been flying 43 years and this was a first! So many pontificate with so little knowledge. We have accidents in aviation for the most part because the business is terribly intolerant of carelessness, stupidity, and neglect. In other words, it cannot be done safely in the same manner as most drive their cars. Which is why I feel much safer in my plane than the highway.
Rebecca Merriman April 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
For the number of General Aviation airplanes flying, the accident rate is a fraction....as compared to say...car accidents. If you follow your theories, you'd never get in an automobile.
Plamena Pesheva (Editor) April 23, 2012 at 07:25 PM
To those readers who are unfamiliar with the location, I've updated the story to indicate the plane crash was in Yorktown, NY. The town is part of what is often considered the northern suburbs of New York City — about 90 minutes from Manhattan in Westchester County.
Frank Giumarra April 23, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Small planes are as safe as the pilot who flys them, its practice , practice . practice and check everything twice before you leave mother earth. Frank Giumarra DXR
Kevin Ruic April 23, 2012 at 08:18 PM
If an aircraft is gliding engine off at 80 knots with no added or detracted wind and at an altitued of 6000 feet above the ground with a rate of descent of 600 feet a minute it's easy for any seasoned pilot to almost instinctively know how much flying time is left and how far in any direction he can go. As a 50-year plus pilot with glider time I can assure you that long before a pilot performs an engine out landing he knows exactly where he is going to land, has picked out the exact spot to touch down and has put the aircraft in a controlled descent designed to land without incident with the exception of maybe some bent parts. There is no panic and it's business as usual. That's not to say that some moose won't wander across his glide path at the exact moment of touchdown. That of course changes the whole story doesn't it?
martyn hawkins April 23, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Thanks! I am an 'out of towner' as well (NC).
zurrix April 23, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Miracle? If a hand came out of the clouds and saved them it's a miracle...this is good luck.
Don Upham April 23, 2012 at 09:54 PM
When I received my flight training through the U.S. Navy, procedures for just such an emergency landing as this were practiced on every flight. The instructor would pull the power back to idle and you had quickly put the aircraft into a gliding configuration, pick a field or roadway and maneuver the aircraft to line up for a power off landing while calling out your procedures all along the way. In addition every landing during training to even a paved field was practiced power off using the same procedures. Pilots are trained to make such an emergency landing, however few in general aviation practice regularly or keep their cool well enough to follow the procedure which requires immediately pushing the nose down to keep the plane in a glide and not cause it to stall (a term meaning that there is not enough wind speed over the wings to maintain lift for the glide). These gentlemen did what they had been trained to do and were able to walk away. Fortunately there was a field to make the emergency landing in.
Don Upham April 23, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Actually there is a company in Florida that sells a plane with a built in parachute, but most pilots are trained to make this type of an emergency landing but most do not practice or keep their cool to follow the procedures so end up falling out of the sky instead of gliding the plane to a survivable landing. Of course if you damage the aircraft in a mid air collision, there is not much of anything that is going to help you out.
Bob H April 23, 2012 at 11:15 PM
This is not exactly a "Small plane" by my standards. I have one almost like it. Executed correctly, touchdown could have been as low as 60 miles an hour. Given a few hundred feet of grass that you see here the landing would be almost a non-event if it were not for the media and the uneducated public. Driving the freeway or a city street at 60 to 80 mph and having cars and less that expert drivers within a couple of feet of me is far more dangerous. I have been flying for more than 50 years with only one engine failure (40 years ago). That landing was in a small pasture field with no damage to aircraft or passengers. The media ignored that one. It is over 100 years since Orville and Wilbur did their thing and flight seems to be magic to most of the public. Should we blame our education system, the media, fear mongering politicians or all of the above!
Plamena Pesheva (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Here is an update: A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman tells me the investigation has begun, but it's still in the very early stages to comment on what caused the plane crash. She said the damage to the aircraft was "substantial." http://patch.com/A-sF0Y

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