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Pilot In Pompano Beach Plane Crash Shares Secret To Landing

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A single engine Cessna broke apart when a student pilot made an emergency landing on a Pompano Beach street.  (Source: CBS4)

A single engine Cessna broke apart when a student pilot made an emergency landing on a Pompano Beach street. (Source: CBS4)

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POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – The pilot who crash landed onto a Pompano Beach street after the airplane lost power shared his incredible story, and secrets to that successful landing.

Meanwhile, investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into what may have caused a loss of power in a small plane and forced the pilot to make an emergency landing on a Pompano Beach street.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said student pilot David Bakalar, 42 of Hollywood and flight instructor Vincent Paul Citrullo III, 27, were on-board the single engine Cessna and walked away virtually unharmed.

CBS4’s Ted Scouten spoke with Citrullo who said they had taken off from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport and were on their way to Pompano Beach Air Park when they lost power.   He said since the wind was so strong they knew they wouldn’t make it to the Air Park so they looked for a place to land.

“We had to divert, the only place we could find that didn’t have population was that side perimeter road,” said Citrullo.

They found a spot south of the runway which was clear of cars and homes.  To get there they had to bank hard or miss it all together.

“We landed on the road but because it was such a violent turn, it was a 90 degree turn, we came over the power line and turned 90 degrees, but because the momentum was still going this way, we touched down one tire, but we skidded across,” said Citrullo, “We couldn’t get the momentum to go down the road and that’s when we struck the palm tree.”

The plane then hit a pole, broke apart and ended up in the intersection of NE 5th Avenue and NE 10th Street; just feet from the Air Park and a short distance from nearby homes.

That fact that no one on the ground was injured was no coincidence.

“We were looking to make sure that nobody was around.  The biggest thing was we were flying the plane,” said Citrullo.  ”It’s not right to endanger innocent civilians on the side of the road walking, just because we’re flying the plane.”

Pompano Beach Fire Rescue Spokesperson Sandra King said everyone was surprised that Citrullo and Bakalar suffered hardly a scratch.

“When fire rescue members arrived they said they were shocked because of the state of the plane and the fact these two individuals were walking,” King told reporters.

The fact the men survived with only a cut to Bakalar’s hand.

“This was their lucky day,” King said. “Not only were they in a student instruction situation but apparently they handled it well. They landed the plane well and no one got hurt. That’s incredible.”

Citrullo said the secret to a successful emergency landing is for the pilot to stay cool.

“If you stay calm, most of the time you’ll walk through it,” said Citrullo.  “If you freak out, you’ll do something stupid and most likely not make it.”

Chris Mullon said in 35 years he’s never seen a crash on this side of the Air Park.  He’s just happy no one was seriously injured.

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