04/15/15 2:00pm
04/15/2015 2:00 PM
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO The three residents of Emerson Lane on the Klenawicus Airstrip Tuesday, where on Monday they ran to rescue pilot Michael Russo who had crashed shortly after takeoff. From left, Rich Surozenski, Patricia Anzalone and Amanda Gutiw. In the background is the downed plane.

The Shelter Island three residents of Emerson Lane on the Klenawicus Airstrip Tuesday, where on Monday they ran to rescue pilot Michael Russo who had crashed shortly after takeoff. From left, Rich Surozenski, Patricia Anzalone and Amanda Gutiw. In the background is the downed plane. (Credit: Beverlea Walz)

At about six p.m. Monday, Amanda Gutiw was home on Shelter Island from her job at Sea Tow in Southold.

She was in the kitchen of her house on Emerson Lane, a quiet cul de sac where the backyards border on open fields and the long, mowed grass runway of Klenawicus Field. She decided on chicken salad for dinner and set about making it, half-watching a rerun on the Discovery Channel of “Deadliest Catch.”

At the same time, several hundred yards away at the far end of the runway, Michael Russo was taxiing his single engine Cessna 162 slowly to a spot for take off. (more…)

07/29/13 8:00am
07/29/2013 8:00 AM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Charles Millman speaks at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday morning.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Charles Millman speaks at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday morning.

Toward the end of a presentation on his investigation into the TWA Flight 800 crash, Mattituck resident Charles Millman was asked what he thought caused the plane to go down just 12 minutes after takeoff on July 17, 1996.

“I think it was not the center wing [fuel] tank,” Mr. Millman said, contradicting the official report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board, following its investigation into the crash that left 230 people dead.

Mr. Millman, a retired aircraft engineer who once served as a maintenance manager at John F. Kennedy International Airport, worked as a consultant for the NTSB in the aftermath of the TWA Flight 800 crash over the Moriches Inlet in East Moriches. Now, 17 years later — and after a recent documentary offering alternative theories into the crash of the Boeing 747-100 headed from JFK to Paris, France has made headlines — Mr. Millman says he believes the federal government should reopen its investigation.

“I don’t know what happened that day,” Mr. Millman said during his presentation to the Men’s Club of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday. “I do know that I think the investigation should be reopened and looked at carefully.”

The NTSB announced June 28 that it’s currently reviewing a Petition for Reconsideration of the Board’s findings and probable cause determination regarding the flight. The petition was received four weeks prior to the world premiere of the documentary, “TWA Flight 800,” on the EPIX television network. The film, which features six retired NTSB investigators who say the government’s explanation was a cover-up and the jet was actually downed by a missile, has since screened at the Stony Brook Film Festival and will also be shown Aug. 8 at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.

Mr. Millman, who has not yet seen the documentary, said the pristine condition of several items recovered from the crash and the NTSB’s inability to replicate an explosion of a center wing fuel tank during its investigation have led him to dispute the government’s official position on the crash.

As part of his presentation to more than two dozen people at the synagogue Sunday, Mr. Millman shared the NTSB accident report, which states the explosion of the center wing tank as the probable cause of the crash. The report says the explosion was most likely caused by a short circuit outside of the tank.

“That doesn’t seem to make too much sense to me,” he said.

Mr. Millman also passed around photographs, newspaper articles and notes from the investigation.

Conspiracy theories have surfaced since the day of the crash, with more than 100 eyewitnesses having told investigators they saw a streak of light headed toward the aircraft moments before it exploded in the sky.

The government has maintained that what those witnesses actually saw was a piece of the aircraft falling from the sky, a theory Mr. Millman disagrees with.

“Common sense says that if hundreds of people say they saw [the streak of light] ascending, then it was ascending, not falling,” Mr. Millman said.

The investigation into the crash lasted more than four years and is reportedly the most expensive crash investigation in U.S. history.

Two men who attended the presentation Sunday said they had sons who were witnesses to the crash. Jed Clauss of Mattituck said his son, Josh, was surfing in Westhampton when debris from the plane landed near him.

Mr. Clauss said Josh returned home with a piece of plastic that surrounded one of the plane’s windows. They called the FBI to report the discovery and an investigator was sent to the house, he said.

“He asked Josh if he noticed a Grady-White [boat] headed in the opposite direction,” Mr. Clauss said. “I always found that curious.”

Mr. Clauss says he’s always believed kinetic energy from a missile shot in the direction of the plane caused the explosion.

Mr. Millman said he hasn’t dwelled on what caused the crash, since he doesn’t exactly know, but he thinks the time has come for the government to take another look.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said, “but 230 lives were affected and when you also consider [all their family members], a tremendous amount of people were hurt by this crash.”

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06/28/13 2:00pm
06/28/2013 2:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | David McElroy had may hobbies and loved his family, his daughters said.

The Orient man who died along with a passenger when his single-engine plane crashed into a Shirley neighborhood last August was warned on the morning of the accident not to fly the plane, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

David McElroy, a 53-year-old licensed pilot and owner of the Socata TB 10 plane, asked a mechanic to inspect the aircraft the day before the accident and said he’d be showing the plane to a prospective buyer, according to the report released on June 18.

Mr. McElroy had told the mechanic, John DiLavore, that the plane had lost power and was unable to climb above 400 feet when he flew it with a Southold friend on Aug. 16.

Mr. DiLavore tested out the plane and found the engine tachometer — which measures the engine’s revolutions per minute — wasn’t working properly, the report states. An emergency location transmitter was also missing, Mr. DiLavore told investigators, adding that he couldn’t look into the diminished power until the tachometer was replaced.

Mr. DiLavore left the plane for Mr. McElroy at Brookhaven Calabro Airport on Aug. 19 following his inspection and told Mr. McElroy the plane wasn’t cleared to fly.

Mr. McElroy, along with Jane Unhjem, 60, and her husband Erik Unhjem, 61, of Goshen, N.Y., took off about 11:30 a.m. but the plane made a slight left turn, descended below the tree line and crashed into a residential area in Shirley about a mile from the airport, according to the NTSB.

Mr. McElroy and Ms. Unhjem were both killed and Mr. Unhjem was critically injured, authorities said. The plane barely missed a home on Helene Avenue, witnesses told The Suffolk Times a day after the accident.

In an interview with the Federal Aviation Authority, Mr. Unhjem — a licensed pilot — said he and his wife vacationed on the North Fork and were interested in buying the plane from Mr. McElroy. Mr. Unhjem said Mr. McElroy told him the plane’s annual inspection was complete and invited him to inspect it.

Mr. and Ms. Unhjem met that morning with Mr. McElroy, who offered to take them for a test flight, the report said. Mr. Unhjem originally took control of the plane, but said it was “sluggish” off the runway and gave control back to Mr. McElroy, who piloted the plane through takeoff.

Mr. Unhjem said the plane “did not climb well” and added he noticed power lines and trees during the ascent. The plane then stalled and crashed.

A witness at the airport also told investigators that the plane appeared to be “slow” and “anemic” and needed almost the entire 4,222-foot runway at Calabro Airport to get airborne, according to the NTSB.

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined and the investigation is ongoing, an NTSB official said.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the last name of the mechanic who informed Mr. McElroy that his plane was not cleared to fly. The mechanic’s name is John DiLavore, not John Galligan.