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The pilot of a small plane that made an emergency landing on a New York City highway on Saturday remained calm during his mayday call to air traffic control, even as it appeared he wouldn’t have a safe place to land his distressed aircraft, audio released Sunday revealed.
"Mayday . . . we’re losing engine power,” said the unnamed pilot of a four-seat Piper PA-28, shortly before he safely landed the plane on the Bronx's Major Deegan Expressway — without seriously injuring himself or two others on board, damaging the aircraft or harming any one on the ground.
The trio had come from Connecticut to take a tour of the Statue of Liberty, but an engine failure over the Bronx prompted a desperate call to air traffic control, in which the pilot begged for a viable place to land.
The air traffic control operator first told the pilot that LaGuardia Airport was five and a half miles away.
But the pilot responded, “I’ll never make it, where do I touch down?”
The ATC operator then seemed to struggle to come up with a solution, saing “I'm not sure where you can touch down if you're not going to make it” he said.
He suggested, “Harlem river, Major Deegan — that would be populated though.”
The operator then advised the pilot to avoid the Major Deegan and maybe try to land in the nearby Van Cortlandt Park, which is about 1,100 acres.
"I’m at less than 1,000 feet" the pilot reported before he was forced to land on the expressway in the middle of the afternoon.
Fortunately, no cars were hit and the aircraft remained in one piece.
"Looks like we made a pretty good landing here. Looks like there isn’t much damage to the aircraft at all," said an emergency responder who arrived at the scene but was also on the newly released ATC recording.
New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio called the landing an "extraordinary situation and actually a bit of a miracle."