FAA in­ves­ti­gates re­port of plane that flew un­der Riegelsvil­le Bridge

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / REGION - By Kyle Ba­gen­stose

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.

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