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Fatal Error Costs Pilot Joseph Milo His Life

small airplane.jpgAn inexcusable mistake by an air traffic controller led to the death of pilot Joseph Milo earlier this month, according to reports released by the NTSB. The air traffic controller directed the pilot, who was operating a plane that was experiencing some mechanical difficulties, to a landing strip that no longer exists. Instead of being directed to a safe area, the air traffic controller directed Milo to land in an area which is now occupied by an industrial building. The confusion lead to a failed emergency landing on a LIRR track, killing the pilot and injuring the passenger. Senseless.

Milo, 59, from Westhampton Beach, was traveling with a friend, Carl Giordano, from his hometown to Morristown, New Jersey. Once he recognized that his small plane, a Hawker Beechcraft BE35, was experiencing mechanical problems he radioed into the closest airport in Farmingdale for help. Instead, the air traffic controller at small Republic Airport gave him some fatal counsel. Milo explained that he was having altitude difficulties and wanted the precise location of Republic Airport. He was only 8 miles away from the airport at the time of the call. Milo expressed some reservations about locating Republic Airport so he was tragically redirected to a different location. The air traffic controller instructed him to try to make it to the now fictitious "Bethpage Strip." The "Bethpage Strip", unbeknownst to the air traffic controller and the pilot has been closed for decades. Despite this, the air traffic controller calmly directed the pilot to that location and insisted that there was a usable runway there. Milo was unable to find the landing strip because there were now several buildings there in its place. Recorded communications between the pilot and the air traffic controller reveal the pilot's confusion at the point when he reaches the location where the landing strip purported to be. Shortly thereafter, about a quarter mile away, Milo attempted an emergency landing. Tragically he landed on a rail way crossing in Hicksville, New York.

Milo was killed in the fatal crash. His passenger, 55 year-old Carl Giordano, survived but his condition is unknown at this time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of both victims. This was a senseless and wholly avoidable tragedy.

A damning report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) makes it patently clear that rank incompetence by the air traffic controller led to this tragic crash. Now the question is, how on earth could this have happened? There will be many areas that investigators will explore and serious questions that need to be answered.

  • What information did the air traffic controller have in his or her possession at the time the advice to land at the "Bethpage Strip" was given?
  • What level of supervision was available for the air traffic controller at the time this decision was made?
  • What type of training and experience did the air traffic controller have?
  • How are authorities made aware when a landing strip is no longer in use?
  • How sophisticated and updated is the technology that we are equipping our air traffic controllers with?

There can be no question that this was a massive error in judgment. We hope that the air traffic community learns from it and avoids future tragedies like this. There simply is no excuse.

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