Monday, April 06, 2009

Damn...Just Damn.

Robert Barnaskas is gone.

He crashed his P-40 Warhawk into Long Island Sound this past Saturday.
A pilot practicing aerial maneuvers was killed today after he nose-dived a vintage World War II plane into the waters off Long Island before more than 100 horrified spectators -- including his own son, officials said.

Bob Baranaskas, 61 of Northport was killed when the single-engine plane splashed into the water at about 1:30 p.m. nearly 300 yards off Mastic Beach in the Suffolk County town of Shirley, police said.

Police said the pilot's son, Chris, who is also a pilot, was on the beach when the crash occurred.

"There was not a day that my father didn't climb into the cockpit and realize that he was entrusted with a piece of our American military heritage so that he could tell our country's story," the son said in a statement.

"He was in every sense of the world, my wingman and now my wingman is gone but our mission continues."

Scores of people enjoying the beautiful weather watched as the plane went into a twirling nosedive from which it never recovered.

Helicopters and Coast Guard crews were still searching for the Baranaskas' body.

"People were watching because of the tricks and then it just went right down," said Roberta Fuentes, a witness from Bayside. "It was hard to believe your own eyes."

Suffolk County cops said the pilot was practicing for an upcoming Memorial Day air show.

Officials described the plane as a privately-owned, authentic single seat P-40 War Hawk, the same type of plane that drew fire during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that pulled the US into World War II.

An oil slick marked the spot where the plane crashed. Helicopters and coast guard crews joined the search for the pilot's body.

The plane crashed just east of the Flight 800 Memorial in Smith Point Park, which commemorates those killed when a Paris-bound TWA airliner carrying 230 passengers and crew exploded in 1996.

Baranaskas, a luxury home builder, flew the plane at parades and during holidays honoring veterans and soldiers.

"Bob was one of those handfuls of people who understood the enormous debt we owe our veterans and those still in uniform," said US Rep Steve Israel (D-Long Island).

Bob and his son Chris flew their planes in the Martinsburg, WV Airshow, back on September 21st. I blogged it briefly and took some pictures of the warbirds there, and sure enough, some of those pics were of Bob and Chris and their fighters.

Here's more pics-- These from the news story's photo gallery:
Click on any of the pics to make them larger.

And these are a few more that I took at the show. It's the same two planes. And the man shown sitting under the wing of the P-40--a man that I talked to for quite some time about his plane and flying in general--is Bob Barnaskas. That's the plane that he went down in.

Thanks for taking some time that day to talk to a one-legged fellow pilot, Bob. I appreciated it and won't forget you.

Robert Barnaskas Obituary


  1. I grew up in Shirley, going to that beach and remember when flight 800 went down.

    Sorry to hear about your fellow pilot. :(

  2. What a horrible tragedy. While I can’t say I knew him, living on Long Island for a number of years had us attending many of the air shows held and visiting Republic Air Museum many weekends. My husband is the huge aviation fan and can identify just about all those warbirds. I am sure he knows that plane well. Sadly, I just remember details like “oh the one with the teeth” or the “one with the half naked lady and the dragon” and the “really, really shiny one”. Sounds pathetic I know, but some people just appreciate these sort of things in a different way. :-)

    I am sure we had seen him and his plane fly at some point in all those events. May he rest in peace and his son carry on his memory.

  3. Anonymous10:30 PM

    What a sad story..............
    Amazing you got to meet him...........That is a rare thing............Godspeed to him, and may his talent and heroics never be forgotten.

  4. Wow. How tragic! So glad you were able to meet him and speak with him in person, though. I know that will leave lasting memories for you.

  5. That is truly sad. I saw the news article yesterday, and had not made the connection with your earlier post.

    I used to work on that same stretch of beach, too, so I can picture the scene vividly in my mind.

  6. Anonymous1:29 PM

    What a terrible loss of life.

  7. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Rest In Peace Valiant Warrior!

  8. I don't know how many pictures we have of him and his planes in our bedroom. Jeff has no idea this happened.