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Wed, Oct 04, 2006

Bizjet Grounded After Alleged Erratic Flight

Could Pilot Have Descended Over 33,000 Feet In Two Minutes?

It is probably every pilot's worst non-flying fear to be told to call the tower after landing. Shortly after midnight Monday, that's what happened to Steven Tursey, when he landed his boss's Gulfstream II at Orange County Airport in upstate New York.

New York state troopers and sheriff's deputies swarmed the aircraft immediately after it shut down, and ordered Tursey to contact the FAA and turn over the keys to the plane.

The FAA has grounded the business jet because of what officials say was an erratic flight from Texas, according to the Times Herald Record.

The FAA originally thought the 19-seat aircraft violated the Washington, DC ADIZ (aircraft defense identification zone), but has since discovered the plane was nowhere near the nation's capital.

But authorities are now questioning the 23-year-old pilot about his flight path showing him dropping from 39,000 feet down to 5,500 feet in a span of two minutes. 

Pilots will note that if this were true, the VSI (vertical speed indicator) would have shown a descent rate of over 16,000 feet per minute.

The plane's owner, construction tycoon Vincent Oppedisano -- who was also a passenger on the plane during the incident flight -- said it was ridiculous to think his airplane performed this fairly amazing maneuver. He claims that it is merely a computer error, reflected on the flight tracking website flightaware.com, that showed his plane rapidly descending.

"If you drop 200 feet in an airplane, you feel that," Oppedisano told The Record. "Imagine dropping 39,000, to (an altitude of) 5,500 feet."

The FAA is trying to unravel this mystery... but until it does, Oppedisano's private jet is staying firmly on the ground.

FMI: Orange County Airport, NY 

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