Boro Park man who Miraculously Escaped Plane in Flames Recalls Harrowing Moments

By: Yehuda Alter 

As we reported earlier this week, Shmuel Judkovitz was lucky to get out of his single-engine plane just as it caught fire, eventually going up in flames. Today, having recovered from this traumatic event, he recalled the frightening and miraculous moments, and shed light upon the details surrounding the story: 

“Sunday morning, I was returning from a flight over south Jersey,” Shmuel recalls. After I landed, I went to refuel the plane, and just like with vehicles in New Jersey, an attendant must refuel the plane. Sammy topped off the fuel tank, and I tipped him. I was taxiing the three-minute ride back to my hangar when the engine abruptly shut off. I had the air vents open, since there is no air conditioning in these small planes—and suddenly, flames begin shooting into the cockpit. 

“I whispered a quick tefillah, lifted the canopy and miraculously exited the cockpit. I put some distance between myself and the plane, and watched it go up in flames, and soon, fire and emergency crews were on the scene.” 

Shmuel explains the investigation process in the aftermath of such an event. 

“The law is that when there is an accident involving a plane, the pilot must contact the NTSB within two days. When I spoke to them, they said that they will not be investigating the incident. The reason they gave was that the fire did not occur during a taxi for the intention flying. But then the FAA called me. Initially, they weren’t going to investigate, but then they changed their mind. They came down and took photos, and as government agencies go...we can probably expect the results in three years or so. 

“If you ask me what I think, my suspicion is that there was a fuel leak. And being that Aviation Gas 100 Low Led (jet fuel) is very flammable, it does not even need a spark in order to ignite. The heat of the plane, which had just been through a flight, together with the hot conditions that day, likely caused it to catch fire. 

Shmuel notes that he is an eleventh-generation descendant of the Ba’al Shem Tov who taught that every detail that takes place is with Hashgacha Protis. “I am really lucky to be alive, and I give thanks to Hashem everything that transpired, the not-so-good as well as the good,” he says.       

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