Queens Assemblyman Clyde Vanel ‘blessed’ after plane crash

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

“I’ve been blessed,” Queens state Assemblyman Clyde Vanel told The Post, a day after managing to safely land on a tiny spit of sand exposed by 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 for a jaunt with a friend Friday when suddenly, the engine of his Beechcraft lost power, he said.

The elected official, 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.

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

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

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

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

The emergency unfolded in just a few minutes, as Vanel realized his engine wasn’t getting any power.

“It stopped responding,” he said. “Imagine you’re driving and you put your foot on the gas but you’re not accelerating.”


He began performing a list of emergency checks, all while feverishly hunting for the best place to bring the now-gliding plane safely to the ground, said Vanel, who feared crashing into a house.

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

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

“I could definitely make it on the beach and there was nobody there,” Vanel said. “I knew if I landed on the beach I would have damage to the airplane, but I might be able to survive that.”

A lone bird watcher captured Vanel’s landing on video, as he gently brought the plane down, its nose dragging along the shore before the body of the aircraft flopped down.


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

While the plane is damaged — and as of Saturday, still sitting on the Shoreham beach — Vanel walked away with just a scratch on his chin.

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

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

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts