A recording between an air-traffic controller and pilot Jason Maloney covers the bizarre moments that led up to Maloney landing his single-engine Piper Warrior off Rockaway Beach Monday night. Not that they make any sense. The 24-year-old pilot gave a series of increasingly nutty reasons for landing on the beach, as the air-traffic controller tried and failed to talk him out of it. Dozens of emergency responders were forced to flock to the landing site once Maloney got his way. Later, Maloney told the police he got the idea from a reality-TV show called Flying Wild Alaska, TLC’s attempt to muscle in on the rugged maverick market after Sarah Palin went to the Discovery Channel. Of all the excuses Maloney gave, however, somehow but it looked so easy on the TV actually makes the most sense.
The audio recording starts off weird and then gets weirder. After a controller said radar showed his plane east of Jones Beach, he radioed in the not-at-all alarming, “Whooooa … What if I want to hide from you?” Upon repeated warnings that he was flying below 500 feet as he cruised along the Rockaways, the overly relaxed pilot replied, “Roger,” but stretched the word out so that it was pronounced “rojahhhhh,” like “wasuuuuuuuup.” Still chillaxing, he also told the controller, who was also monitoring outgoing flights from JFK, “Just let us know if we’re up in your grill, you know?”
Later on, when one of Maloney’s two passengers got sick, he made an inexplicable request to the controller, saying he wanted to bring a “pastor” to JFK “who’s doing some medical mission work. Where would I drop them off at your airport?” When that didn’t work, he cited engine troubles as a reason to land: “You know, tower, my engine might be running a little teensy, teensy bit rough. A little teensy bit rough.” You know, just a teensy tiny itsy bitsy spider bit.
After listening to the recording, a law-enforcement source told the New York Post: