Queens Assemblyman Clyde Vanel ‘blessed’ after plane crash

A Queens State Assemblyman says he has divine intervention to thank for the miraculous emergency landing he made on a Long Island beach on Friday in his small plane

“I’ve been blessed,” Queens State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel told The Post a day after he managed to land safely on a small stretch of exposed sand at low tide after the craft suddenly lost power.

“I don’t know why God spared me, but I guess I’m here for a reason.”

Vanel, 48, was out on a getaway with a friend on Friday when suddenly his Beechcraft’s engine lost power, he said.

The chosen one, whose 33rd Assembly District represents parts of southeast Queens, is an experienced recreational pilot who studied aviation at SUNY Farmingdale and flies once every few weeks, he said declared.

The skies were clear when Vanel and his pal took off from Brookhaven Airport in Suffolk County, and everything was fine, he said – until it wasn’t.

Vanel was out for a ride with a friend on Friday when suddenly the engine of his Beechcraft lost power.
John Roca

“We were about 10 miles from the airport…over water, clear, good weather, nothing crazy, nothing special,” he said.

In over 10 years of flying, “I’ve never had an engine failure before,” he says. “You train so much for it, muscle memory kicks in.”

The emergency unfolded in just a few minutes, when Vanel realized that his engine was no longer receiving power.

“He stopped responding,” he said. “Imagine driving and putting your foot on the accelerator but not accelerating.”

He began performing an emergency checklist, while feverishly searching for the best place to get the now-hovering plane to safety, said Vanel, who feared it might crash into a house.

“I knew I couldn’t go back to Brookhaven. Calverton [Executive Airpark] was a bit close, but it looked a bit far. Then there was Shoreham [Nuclear Power Plant] close to me, but I wasn’t really sure I could get over all the trees and all the houses,” he said.

Then he spotted it: a small patch of sand, usually covered by water and now revealed at low tide.

“I could definitely do it on the beach and there was no one there,” Vanel said. “I knew if I landed on the beach I would have damage to the plane, but I might be able to survive that.”

A lone birdwatcher captured Vanel’s landing on video, as he gently descended the plane, his nose trailing along the shoreline before the plane’s body collapsed.

“I was so shaken up,” said Vanel, who said he couldn’t remember the exact moment but immediately rushed himself and his friend out of the plane, fearing a fire. “I’m still a bit in shock.”

While the plane was damaged – and since Saturday still sitting on the beach at Shoreham – Vanel walked away with just a scratch on her chin.

With no cell reception on the beach, the birder helped Vanel and his friend call the authorities. He hopes to recover the damaged aircraft on Sunday and plans to fly again, saying aviation is “in my DNA”.

“I’m going to talk a lot more about training and safety now,” he said, crediting his training for keeping him alive. “I don’t know if this will save every situation, but you can make a bad situation less bad.”

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts


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