A controller who was trying to help a Bonanza pilot in distress directed him to a runway that no longer exists, according to an NTSB preliminary report posted this week. According to the report, the pilot of the Beech C35 Bonanza had taken off from Westhampton Beach, New York, on Sunday, August 16, on an air-taxi flight, and was headed to Morristown, New Jersey, with one passenger on board. He was flying at 6,500 feet, about 8 nm from Farmingdale, New York, when he reported to ATC that he was "having a little bit of a problem" and may need to turn back and land at Farmingdale. The pilot then said he couldn’t make it to FRG, and the controller suggested he try “Bethpage strip,” which was a closed airport but there was a runway there. The pilot searched for the runway but couldn’t find it, and crashed on railroad tracks. The pilot was killed, but the passenger survived. The NTSB said “an examination of the area of the former Bethpage Airport revealed that industrial buildings occupied the former runway surface area.”
The NTSB said several transmissions between the controller and pilot revealed that the pilot was unable to see the runway, while the controller continued to provide heading and distance to the Bethpage runway. The passenger told investigators the flight was in cruise when he heard a loud "pop" sound, with a flicker of light from the engine area, followed by an "oil smell." The engine then began to "sputter" and lose power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine without success. The pilot, age 59, held a commercial pilot certificate and had completed a Part 135.299 check ride on June 18. The main wreckage was found inverted and burned on the railroad tracks for the Long Island Rail Road, about 0.25 nm northwest of the former runway's approach end.