Residential Neighbors to Teterboro Airport Concerned Over Their Safety

TETERBORO, N.J. (AP) -- A small airplane crashed and burst into flames Tuesday while landing at Teterboro Airport, and rescuers helped pull the pilot from the smoke-filled wreck.

The pilot - the only person on board the twin-engine turboprop - was hospitalized in fair condition. But the crash renewed calls to reduce the number of flights at the airfield used by business and private planes, which is in a dense area near New York and has now had three accidents this year.

The pilot reported problems with both engines while approaching from Nantucket, Mass., at about 11:30 a.m., said Jim Peters, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating.

The plane landed short of Runway 1, he said.

''It resulted in a small fire, which was extinguished within minutes,'' said Anthony R. Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Teterboro, as well as Newark Liberty International, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

Coscia and Peters said the pilot's name was not immediately available. According to the aircraft's tail number listed on an FAA Web site, it is registered to Maci Leasing Corp. in Edison. There was no phone listing for the business.

Bill Stevick, general manager of the United Show Case Co. facility just across the street from the start of the runway in Moonachie, said his workers watched the plane as it flew by the company's building because the aircraft sounded odd.

''They saw the plane banking back and forth, left and right, as it was landing,'' said Stevick, of Lodi.

The plane was burning when airport Officer Mike Wohn and operations supervisor Marcello Morelli saw the pilot had left the cockpit and opened an exit on the right side of the aircraft, which was filled with smoke.

''He was making a desperate attempt to get out of the plane,'' Morelli said.

He and Wohn grabbed the pilot and took him to safety, Wohn said.

The pilot was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and was in fair condition Tuesday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Peggy Schunk said.

Operations at the airport were suspended after the crash for about 3½ hours before it reopened at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Rep. Steve Rothman, a Democrat whose Bergen County district includes the airport, said flights to Teterboro should be reduced by 25 percent, bringing them to the levels of 1995.

''This airport is no longer safe for the residents who live here,'' Rothman said.

Coscia said the airport is safe. He said the Port Authority was spending $20 million on barriers to prevent crafts from skidding off runways onto nearby roads, and was also investing in new firefighting equipment.

Rothman and the Port Authority have worked to prevent larger aircraft from using Teterboro, but the airport is hardly what it used to be, according to Ray Clouse, who has lived for 52 years in a house in Little Ferry. Runway 1 is behind his back yard.

''This was for Cessnas and Piper Cubs,'' Clouse said. Now, bigger and louder aircraft serve a wealthy or corporate clientele. ''They land here because they can get out and walk to their limo,'' he said.

''I think it should be toned down or closed,'' Clouse said. ''It's just ridiculous. They shouldn't have an airport like this in this area.''

Julio Carrion, 21, who lives in nearby Moonachie, also dislikes Teterboro. ''Can't even sleep at night,'' he said. ''And you can smell the fuel.''

It was the third accident this year at Teterboro Airport, about 12 miles west of midtown Manhattan.

On Feb. 2, a twin-jet corporate plane carrying 11 people ran off the end of a runway during an aborted takeoff, sped across a busy road and slammed into a warehouse. Twenty people were injured, including two who were in a car struck by the plane.

On March 8, another business plane overshot a runway and stopped in snow and mud. Both passengers and the two crew members walked away uninjured.

Teterboro has grown into one of the nation's busiest small airports, catering to corporate jets. It had 202,720 arrivals and departures in 2004, a 4 percent increase from 2003, officials said.