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Plane takes unusual route on river, sparking investigation


A small plane deviated from its flight path Friday afternoon, flying under the historic Riegelsville Bridge.

Area residents reacted with shock and anger as a purported photo of the errant plane circulated on Facebook’s Riegelsville page. One eyewitness reported seeing the pilot flying low over the Delaware River prior to the incident.

Joe Donnelly, a spokesman for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, confirmed the stunt to the Herald and described it “as an agricultural plane, otherwise known as a crop duster.” He did not know where the plane originated but said it would be in the pilot’s best interest to reach out to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Donnelly said Monday that video footage had been shared with state police, and that an FAA regional office in the Lehigh Valley had been notified.

Riegelsville Bridge Monitor Robert Schlittler, who was not on duty at the time of the incident, said Monday he could not recall such a thing ever happening. “As far as I know, the FAA doesn’t allow craft to do that.”

The federal agency does not specifically ban flying under bridges, but prohibits pilots from flying closer than 500 feet to any building or structure.

The Riegelsville Bridge is an important site for American architecture. One of the first suspension bridges, it was designed by John A. Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge.