FAA investigates report of plane that flew under Riegelsville Bridge
Everyone knows the wisdom of the old saying, “Don’t burn your bridges.”
But at least one person needs a little extra help: Don’t fly under them either.
On Friday, a pilot flew a small passenger plane underneath the span of the Riegelsville Bridge, which crosses the Delaware River in Upper Bucks County. Who was in the craft has not been released. An image of the stunt circulated on social media over the weekend, and authorities Monday were mum or said they were just beginning to look into the incident.
Joseph Donnelly, spokesperson for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which owns the bridge, confirmed that a plane did actually pull the stunt, but had few other details to share. Some people had speculated online that perhaps the image instead showed a remote-controlled plane or was otherwise a prank.
“I can confirm that it happened,” Donnelly said.
Whether any further investigation is taking place is unclear. The National Transportation Safety Board said that without a crash, it’s a matter for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA has a regional office in Bethlehem, and Manager Lee Abt said that while the agency received a report about the incident, it hadn’t “confirmed” any further information.
Asked if such a maneuver would be illegal, Abt opted for slightly different language.
“It does not meet any kind of regulation that we would ever support,” Abt said, adding that somebody at the office would be conducting an investigation.
Riegelsville Borough staff said they didn’t have any further details about the incident, and that the borough tries to steer clear of goings-on that light up social media. And that was certainly the case in close-knit Riegelsville, where Facebook users were posting various takes on the incident.
“My opinion… NOT COOL!” posted the account of Chelsea Forge Antiques & Design, a store up the road in Finesville, New Jersey. “It could potentially kill people on the bridge.”
In addition to vehicular traffic, the bridge has a pedestrian walkway.
“Also could potentially damage a historic bridge that underwent expensive restorations not that long ago,” another person wrote on Facebook. “SO irresponsible.”
Others offered a lighter take, such as one user who used photo editing software to swap a Star Wars TIE fighter in for the plane.
The bridge’s suspension design was constructed in 1904, spanning 577 feet. It has several supporting piers, including two in the river, between which the plane appears to have flown.
Google Maps shows the distance between the piers is about 170 feet. U.S. Geological Survey data show the Delaware River was only about 3 feet deep at Riegelsville on the day the incident occurred.
Donnelly said he wasn’t sure what would become of the pilot, should he or she be identified.
“Is it criminal? Is it civil? I don’t know,” Donnelly said.