Pilot had to adjust course before April crash landing in Meriden

Pilot had to adjust course before April crash landing in Meriden

reporter photo

MERIDEN —  The two New York pilots involved in a crash landing on the Wilcox Technical High School baseball field last month were trying to return to Meriden Markham Airport but had to adjust course when another plane was in the air space, an attorney said.

Robert Leggiero and Alexander Fonarow, both members of the Westchester Flying Club, were injured April 11 when they tried to land the aircraft after it lost engine power near Meriden Markham. The plane struck high tension wires, knocking out power to much of the city.

It is not clear which man was at the controls of the plane, but both are pilots, said aviation attorney Salvatore Lagonia, who represents the Westchester Flying Club, which owns the plane.  

Reached by phone last week, Fonarow said he’s on the mend and does not remember much about the crash. He referred further questions to Lagonia. Leggiero could not be reached for comment.

According to Lagonia, planes leased to pilots by the club are routinely taken out for maintenance, and the two men liked to get work done at Meriden Markham. 

“There was maintenance done at Meriden airport,” Lagonia said. “They were taking it on a flight to circuit the airport. When they went to turn back to land, another plane was in the space and they went further out than they wanted to.”

The plane’s engine lost power at an altitude of around 500 feet, forcing the pilots to find a landing area.  

“It looks like the pilots did what they are trained to do, and what they need to do to minimize the damage and stay away from people,” Lagonia said.

Lagonia has spoken with both pilots and is representing the club during the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

“The NTSB will delegate some parts of the investigation to the FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration), who will issue a final report sometime in the future,” Lagonia said. “It could be three months to a year before the report comes back.”

The NTSB and FAA have not released the names of the two men involved. The names were included in a fire department report on the incident, obtained by the Record-Journal.

The NTSB’s initial report states that the man piloting the plane received a third class medical certificate in 2017. Leggiero received his medical certificate in 2017 while Fonarow received his in 2014, according to an online FAA database.

FAA records list a Valhalla, New York address for Leggiero and a Greenwich, Connecticut address for Fonarow.

Eversource waiting

Eversource crews worked for several hours overnight to restore power to about 13,000 customers and repair damaged equipment. According to an Eversource spokesman, the utility company is waiting for the NTSB report before making any decision on potential liability. 

“When our equipment or facilities are damaged by a third party, we review the facts and circumstances on a case-by-case basis,”  spokesman Mitch Gross said in an email. “When it is determined that a third party is responsible for the damage, we will seek to recover those costs from that party.”

Meriden Markham Airport has a contract with Mustang Aviation for minor maintenance work.  It was not clear what work was done on the plane prior to the crash, but it was routine maintenance, Lagonia said.

 “It could have been an oil change,” Lagonia said.

Mustang Aviation owner Russ Emmons could not be reached for comment.

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