Mayday Call From Major Deegan Expressway Landing Released

The pilot of a small plane that landed on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx Saturday remained calm even as his aircraft's engine lost power, air traffic control audio revealed.

The recording released Sunday recounts the minutes before the four-seat, single-engine 1966 Piper PA safely touched down on the Bronx expressway without causing serious injuries to any of the plane's three passengers or anyone on the ground.

The plane, which took off in Danbury, Conn. and was registered to Michael Schwartz of South Salem, N.Y., was returning from a tour of the Statue of Liberty when an engine problem caused the plane to lose altitude.

The pilot can be heard sending out a distress call. The air traffic control operator then tells the pilot to touch down at LaGuardia Airport, more than 5 miles away

"I'll never make it," the pilot told the operator. "Where do I touch down?"

The operator replies, "I'm not sure where you can touch down if you're not going to make it" before listing a few possible landing areas -- including the Major Deegan Expressway, Van Cortlandt Park and the Harlem River.

The pilot and the operator had a few more exchanges before the plane landed on the expressway near East 233rd Street.

Aside from a wheel that broke in the hard landing, the plane only sustained minor damage. A Department of Transportation worker blocked traffic with his truck to prevent oncoming traffic from hitting the aircraft.

"Looks like we made a pretty good landing here. Looks like there isn't much damage to the aircraft at all," an emergency responder could be heard on the air traffic control recording saying after the crash.

The passengers and pilot weren't seriously hurt, and all three were released from St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx Saturday night.

The accident 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.

"We have an extraordinary situation and actually a miracle, thank God, that happened today in our city," Mayor de Blasio said Saturday.

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