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Pilot flies type of plane involved in Hudson River midair collision
Peavy says flukes, not modern equipment, often at fault in crashes
Local pilot Todd Peavy explains the safety precautions he takes while flying his Piper Lance aircraft. Peavy says pilots must maintain 500 feet of separation while in the air in order to avoid midair collisions like the crash that took place Saturday over the Hudson River. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Many are fearful of small airplanes after reports of fatal crashes, but Gainesville pilot Todd Peavy said it’s often a fluke that causes accidents.

"Mechanical malfunctions are so rare," Peavy said. "People fear what they don’t know."

Peavy’s 1976 Piper Lance airplane is the same model as the one that collided with a sightseeing helicopter Saturday over the Hudson River in New York.

Saturday’s crash killed three Pennsylvania residents on the plane and five Italian tourists and a pilot on the helicopter.

Two bodies were pulled Tuesday from the wreckage of the small plane in the Hudson River, meaning all nine crash victims have been recovered, police said.

The Piper airplane collided with the helicopter in the congested airspace between New Jersey and Manhattan.

Peavy said it is especially important for pilots to be aware of their surroundings when flying in busy airspace.

"You always identify where you are," Peavy said. "Then you identify your tail number and your position on the field."

Because many planes may be flying behind, above or underneath you, Peavy said electronics can help distinguish where other aircraft are flying to avoid collisions.

Peavy installed what is called a transponder into his plane, which sends a signal to Air Traffic Control and other vehicles.

"It’s a security factor," Peavy said. "It’s a huge bonus to know where everybody is."

Peavy said most newer airplanes come equipped with transponders.

Another way pilots stay safe is by maintaining 500 feet between aircraft.

Pilots are also required to undergo a biannual review to brush up on their skills and make sure they stay current with rules and regulations. The planes themselves must also undergo regular mechanical evaluations to ensure their safety.

Peavy said the many precautions taken with flight lead to the low number of fatal crashes each year. He believes many people’s fear of flying is unfounded.

"Anytime anything happens in aviation the media picks up on it," he said of crashes like the recent one over the Hudson River. "The majority of pilots out there are safe flyers."

The Associated Press contributed to this report