Paul Dudley, the pilot of a helicopter that plunged into the East River Tuesday, has a clean flying record and thousands of hours of flying experience, and while friends say the crash could have happened to anyone, the National Transportation Safety Board is continuing an investigation into the situation that could last months. NY1’s Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Paul Dudley, 56, is a veteran helicopter pilot with 25 years of experience. He's also manager of Linden Airport, where mostly private helicopters fly into and out of. It's a close-knit community.
“He's a commercial-rated pilot. He knows his stuff,” says pilot Joe Martinez.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Dudley has a clean flying record and 2,200 hours of flying experience. Of those 2,200 hours, 1,500 were on helicopters and 500 were on the same helicopter that crashed.
While NTSB officials say it could take months to say definitively what went wrong Tuesday, Rich Burnett, a close friend of Dudley's who flew with him Wednesday morning, says Dudley knows what happened.
“He just had a bad experience with an engine failure. It could happen to anybody,” says Burnett. “It lost power, so it had to be an engine problem.”
Tuesday's crash isn't the first time Dudley was involved in a flying incident. Back in 2006, he was flying an airplane from the Hamptons to the Linden airport when he was forced to make an emergency landing in a park in Gravesend, Brooklyn.
He also walked away from that close-call unharmed.
“Great skills, qualified pilot, he's been out of, in a couple of situations and got out of them. I think he did a great job saving whoever he could save in the situation that he was in, so kudos to him. I just feel bad for the woman who lost her life. It's a shame,” says pilot Ron Lopes.
Dudley has said publicly in the past that he believes flying is the safest way to travel. That's why his friends say they believe that while he is distraught about the accident, they know he will be flying again soon.