Philip Ippolito Dies, As A Teen, Made Emergency Plane Landing On George Washington Bridge In 1965

Philip Ippolito, Made Miracle Landing On George Washington Bridge In 1965, Is Dead

Ippolito airplane George Washington Bridge

Philip Ippolito airplane being Inspected on George Washington Bridge December 26, 1965 Photo; AP Wirephoto

From SNCA reader Jason Smith comes word that Philip Ippolito who on December 26, 1965 at  age 19, made an emergency landing on the George Washington Bridge, died on December 19, 2021, at age 75.

Ippolito died of a heart attack in his home in Suffolk County, NY. He lived with a long time girlfriend and had no children.  Survivors include his older sister Rose and a younger sister, Janice. A brother Robbie died in 2019.

Philip Ippolito and Joseph Brennan in hospital Dec 26, 1965

Ippolito and Brennan in hospital photo Jim Hughes for NY Daily News

In 1965 Ippolito was a flying novice, having logged only 85 hours of flight time. With his plane in distress, Ippolito made the risky decision to land on the bridge. Along with his passenger Joseph Brennan, the two suffered only minor injuries. Ippolito decided against touching down in the Hudson River because Brennan could not swim. The FAA later tried unsuccessfully to revoke Ippolito’s pilots license.

You can read the amazing full story which we covered in 2015 by clicking here.

In 1974 the New York Times caught up with Ippolito to find that he had founded Eastern Air Services a charter-flight and flight instruction service with his brother. By then, Ippolito had 10,000 hours of flying experience. Reading the comments of our readers in our original story about the landing, Phil Ippolito, was a very good flight instructor.

Ippolito’s’ sister Rose said, “Phillie impressed everyone he met with not only his knowledge but his unequaled humor.  He’d tell me stories and had me roaring with laughter.

After Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made his miracle landing on the Hudson in 2009, a Tribeca neighborhood newspaper ran an article comparing Sullenberger’s landing  to Ippolito’s feat.

Soon afterwards, Ippolito received three voicemails from someone wanting to know details of how Ippolito made his landing.

Ippolito called back and his inquirer turned out to be actor Robert De Niro.

De Niro with actor Joe Pesci became so interested after reading about Ippolito’s adventure the pair rented a helicopter to take them to the bridge. Seeing the bridge from the perspective Ippolito had decades earlier gave De Niro and Pesci a deep appreciation for the skill necessary to safely land the plane.

During their phone conversation De Niro told Ippolito he didn’t know how Ippolito could pull off such a difficult maneuver. Ippolito’s simple reply was, “You can do anything when you’re scared shit!”

25 thoughts on “Philip Ippolito Dies, As A Teen, Made Emergency Plane Landing On George Washington Bridge In 1965

  1. Ivan Klugman

    Hi Rich ,
    I amazed myself that I’m retired from
    United ! Great run ! I’m doing some GA flying out of FRG where you based 012.
    Warm Regards

  2. Richard Wyeroski

    Just learned that Phil died……..sad we had fun years ago flying at Eas-AiR. I flew with Phil back in 1973 for my CFI Certificate and we came friends for life. We instructed together and I leased my Cessna-150 to the club. There were so many stories . I remember Jackie Phil’s girl friend . We hung out all the time at ISLIP MacArthur and the airport grill. Flying and fixing planes at the DeAngelone Aviation ramp. We changed oil, tires fixed problems, Hanging an engine in February was cold but when your 25 years old nothing bothers you. We also learned never to drain hot oil into a plastic bag when we could not find a bucket. ……The stain was there for a long time

    Phil recommended me to the FAA back then to get my A%P Mechanic Certificate also and to this day I still use it working on aircraft and training new mechanics.

    We flew for years and never lost a student. I could say one thing, Phil was the best pilot instructors i ever flew with. He had a unique way to teach relaxed and cool. One day we has a problem /with my plane and finally after hours fixed it and Phil said let’s take it up and make sure it was okay. Away we went and smiling Phil said lets make sure it runs okay and did a series of loops and rolls as I hung on to/my seat…..hard to believe that was over 40 years ago.

    God I can think of so much fun times we has with Ivan and dave billy and the kids. They all went on to be airline pilots.

    It was amazing time when we all were young and there was nothing we could not do. We shared the office with an all girl flight instructor club and one could imagine what went on. Mary Jane was like the mother that kept it all working. Phil and i still laughed at all the fun we had.

    Well Phil I know your up there with the best of them and we all will miss your jokes and stories old pal.
    But as they say one day we all will be together. You left your mark on many people and made the world a better place . RIP and it was an honor for me to call you friend!!

    Rich Wyeroski

    1. Teresa Matteson

      Hi Rich – sorry I didn’t contact you when it happened. I only told Jay, who posted Phil’s passing, Sue, and Jackie. You know Phil, he was vey private. I searched for phone numbers, but Phil had numbers written on everything and it was hard to decipher his notes. I miss his sense of humor and all the laughter we shared. He will be missed by many.


      1. Rich Wyeroski


        Thanks it was hard to believe Phil passed. We were friends for 50 years……I will al;ways remember the fun we had running Eas-Air . There was always something going on, pilots coming and going but we laughed and it was a fun place to be…..That was all back in the 70’s ….



  3. Robert Spinicchia

    Phil, Happy first anniversary in heaven today, I will remember and miss you forever, the many memories and stories and fun we had, God bless you my friend, Your pal, Bob Spinicchia, Massapequa, NY NCPD (ret)

  4. Robert Spinicchia

    I will miss Phil always, he was my mentor and flight instructor, he was one of the Bronx Boys from Barnes Ave, may he rest in peace with his brother Bobby, God bless you Phil, thanks for the memories

  5. Ira Shiansky

    Phil was a legend as my high school aviation instructor and my personal flight instructor. He was so fun to hang around with. Many hours bullshitting with the old gang at the Plainview diner and the airport diner. Phil always had good stories to tell and good jokes.

  6. Rose Somma

    I am Phil’s older sister, Rose. I so remember this day when we got a phone call from the Hospital about this incident. I was single at the time & we all piled into 2 cars & off to see him. I never realized how bruised up he was until years later, when he told me. Apparently, the instrument panel had hit him in the chest upon final impact & stopping. He told me so much more about that fateful day. Had me memorized the entire time. Fly free Phillie!

    1. Ivan

      Hi Rose, not sure if I met you. I was one of Phil’s students from
      JFK HS. Spoke to him every once in a while. I did speak to him a couple of months before his death never mentioned it to me. I’m very saddened by his death he was a great mentor to me and 2 others that are still flying at United. He was unique and very kind man !

      Sorry for your loss !!

  7. Brett Connelly

    If this is the same Phil that I met and knew in Long Island out in the Hamptons. He left an impact on me I still remember him 25 years later. Rest in peace Phil.

  8. Tim Hicks

    This is amazing. My parents have lived across the street from Phil forever. My father wasn’t sure what was going on with him, because he hadn’t seen him in so long. Phil was the nicest guy. He’d come by and talk to me when I was younger, he offered to fix pretty much anything. It’s crazy that for all these years I’ve known him, and we never knew this. So nuts. Phil truly was a great guy. I haven’t seen him in a few, but he will absolutely be missed.

    1. Teresa Matteson

      Hi Tim – I saw your father shortly after Phil’s passing. Sorry to hear about your mother. Phil’s last couple of years were spent at home and hospital. Yes, there wasn’t much he couldn’t fix! He taught me plumbing, electrical, how to fix lawnmowers, and even how to repair oil burners! He will be missed,


  9. Ivan Klugman

    Phil was the best flight instructor !! Myself and two others from the class he taught at JFK high school are all airline captains at United. I spoke to him just prior to his death !! He was a good person ! I’ll miss him !

  10. Emily McGrail

    I’ve known Philip Ippolito as Uncle Phil my entire life. I always come back to this website and laugh at the name, “stuff nobody cares about” because to me my Uncle’s stories made my childhood. I gave birth to my daughter two weeks ago and I hope to keep his memory and spirit alive by passing down these stories of my eccentric uncle. Keep on posting about stuff no one cares about because I promise you there is always one person who does.

    1. Ivan Klugman

      We certainly cared about your Uncle Phil !! Never met you are you Charlene’s daughter? He was an interesting and kind hearted man that left a few or his students as his legacy !! I’m one of them ! Spoke to him early December ! He sounded normal, I guess he held it together well. Certainly a mentor to many and a friend to me !!! He was an amazing instructor !! At least 3 United Captains I know admired him and learned a lot. !!

    2. Rose Somma

      What a nice comment Emily! I am Phil’s older sister, Rosemarie, as he’d call me! Never heard of you. If you’d care to answer me, please do!

    3. Teresa Matteson

      Hi Emily – I just came across this site – my granddaughter found it and called because she wanted to know what grandpa looked like. Phil so much wanted to meet the twins and fly models with them but we just never got a chance – I am sure he would have flown planes with your daughter as well. Hope all is well with you and your family. Call me sometime – number is still the same,


    1. Rose Somma

      Thank you Carole for this kind mention of Phillie! He would often say that there was a time he almost didn’t reach 20! He was a month shy of his 20th birthday when this happened!

    2. Rich Wyeroski


      There are so many Phil stories that they can fill a book and what a book it would be. Flying on Long Island over 50 years ago was so different then it is today.

      One day Phil had to go the the FAA, which was at Zahns Airport. He had to renew his instructors rating and when the inspector got into the aircraft and Phil went to adjust the DG to the Compass the compass was missing!! ….The inspector smiled and said come back when you find the Compass and walked away!!! Things happen and the FAA knew it and did not violate him………Back then we were sure busy flying….30- 40 hours a week dual given was normal.

      Eas-Air was a fun place to learn to fly and everyone wanted to fly with Phil. It was routine to get ground school at the Airport Grill and we had our own table in the back. Breakfast, Lunch and sometimes dinner at the grill ….flying and giving ground school.

      There was the pumpkin patch incident, when Phil flew back to the airport with out the student. It seems they land at a field near by to pick some pumpkins and the field turned out to be too short to take off with the student aboard. He later hitched back to the airport safe and sound with a few pumpkins.

      Islip Tower knew us all well as we were always doing touch and goes day and night in the pattern. Phil had about 10,000 hours of dual given with so many pilots that flew with him for their Certificates and ratings.
      Maybe some could way in and write something about their lessons with him. He deserves to be remembered for his contribution to aviation.

      I know the kids from JFK became airline pilots going through Eas-Air….Amazing they are all retired now.

      Pilots always remember their instructors and they sure remember Phil



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