By ERIC LICAS | Orange County Register
The pilot of a stunt plane experienced a technical malfunction while flying over Long Beach on Tuesday, April 14, and had to make an emergency landing in a concrete bed of the San Gabriel River.
The man operating an Avions P Robins R2160 reported engine trouble, and managed to land the aircraft shortly before 7:40 p.m., in a portion of the channel just north of Wardlow Road, Long Beach Police Lt. Megan Zabel said. The stretch of concrete riverbed that served as a makeshift airstrip was mostly dry Tuesday evening, and is located near the 605 Freeway, where Los Alamitos, Cypress and Long Beach meet.
“We were coming in to land at Long Beach and the engine quit,” pilot Sergei Levitan said shortly after maneuvering the plane to safety. “We were just going over the river, and I realized I was too low to make it anywhere else. I figured this was the better place to land.”
Levitan called the aircraft with two seats and a red, white and blue paint job an “aerobatic plane.” He said he works for SoCal Jet Services and has been flying for about 10 years. This is the first time he has had to make an emergency landing. The pilot estimated that he may have been travelling at about 60 knots (69 mph) prior to landing, and that winds may have been light Tuesday evening.
“Well, it’s hard to say because I really didn’t have time to look around and see what conditions were,” Levitan said.
No injuries were immediately reported, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. The plane had been occupied by Levitan and one passenger, Zabel said.
The aircraft was not damaged during the incident, Gregor said. Its was registered to Flyin Club LLC, a firm based out of Long Beach, and its flight certification was valid through Sept. 30, according to FAA records.
The emergency landing and the circumstances leading up to it were under investigation, Gregor said.
“(Even with) a little bit of water, this might still be better than landing on the streets,” Levitan said. “605? Eh, I don’t know. I didn’t want to land on a highway even though it is pretty empty right now.”