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!”

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

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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 !!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 !

  7. 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!

    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!


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