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An Israeli Man Killed in a Crash Traveled to Princeton Airport to Earn a Special Certification

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted September 2, 2023

The Israeli pilot who crashed into a Millstone River tributary off Route 27 in the Kingston section on of South Brunswick on Thursday (August 31) had traveled to Princeton Airport in Montgomery Township to earn a special helicopter pilot certificate.

Josef-Ram Yitzhak, 44, was already a commercial airline pilot who worked for Aerojet in Africa, according to LinkedIn. In fact, he was certified to fly all types of aircraft, including jet planes. He was also a flight instructor. Apparently, he wanted to add the Robinson model R-22 helicopter to his list of certifications.

South Brunswick police worked with the Israeli Consul and Israeli police overnight to notify Yitzhak's family in Israel of his death, Deputy Chief James Ryan told The Montgomery News. He is survived by his mother and three sisters.

Robinson R22 helicopter

The helicopter, a single-engine Robinson R22, was out of Princeton Airport in Montgomery Township. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a regulation, SFAR 73, that requires special training and experience for pilots of this aircraft.

Deputy Chief Ryan said the Israeli national traveled alone to take flying lessons at Princeton Airport. He was staying in a hotel on Route 1 in South Brunswick. It is not unusual for folks from other countries to travel here to take flight lessons. The Princeton Airport is among a collection of small airports that have an excellent international reputation for small plane and helicopter flight lessons, he said.

Jose-Ram Yitzhak

Captain Josef-Ram Yitzhak. Photo from LinkedIn.

The Robinson R22 is a two-seat, two-bladed, single-engined, light utility helicopter manufactured by Robinson Helicopter Company. It was designed in 1973 by Frank D. Robinson, and has been in production since 1979.

Yitzahk was a charter-operation captain with Aerojet, who had earned an FAA Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certification—the highest achievement of pilot certification, requiring 1500 hours of total flight time. He was also a certified flight instructor (CFI) for single-engine aircraft, multi-engine aircraft, and was certified to teach instrument flying (CFll). In addition, he was an Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI). He had also worked as a pilot/captain for Airjet in Angola.

He flew the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia, a twin-turboprop 30-passenger commuter airliner designed and manufactured in Brazil. He also flew Embraer jets ERJ135 (37 passengers) and ERJ145 (50 passengers). He also listed on LinkedIn that he was certified as a CE-500 series pilot, which would allow him to act as the pilot in command of all Citation 500 series aircraft (mostly small, fast, private, expensive jets).

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The Crash

Given Yitzahk's extensive experience, it is especially tragic that he died after his helicopter crashed mid-afternoon on a clear, sunny, summer day. The aircraft went down at 3:45 pm, according to the South Brunswick police.

Deputy Chief Ryan said the firefighters and police who first responded to the scene were able to pull the pilot from the craft, which had landed upside down in the river.

"They saw the shoulder of the pilot," he said during a telephone interview. "They lifted the helicopter and dragged the man to the shore. The pilot had massive injuries, and life-saving efforts were not possible."

Capt. Chuck Pisano of the Kingston Fire Company was one of the two men who helped pull the pilot from the helicopter. Neighbors had called 911 after witnessing the chopper flying erratically, then dropping into the river. Firefighters checked the river and confirmed there were no other people injured on the ground.

Second Princeton Airport Crash

The helicopter is listed as being owned by a company based out of Princeton Airport, according to FAA registry records. reported that although the cause of the crash is under investigation, South Brunswick Police Lt. Gene Rickle said it’s possible the chopper experienced a mechanical problem.

“We were able to talk to three different people (who heard the crash) and all of them seem to come to the conclusion that there was some type of malfunction,” Rickle told NJ Advance Media.

The ​​​​​​​​National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) removed the helicopter from the Millstone River tributary on Saturday afternoon (September 2). It could take up to a year for the NTSB to determine the cause of the accident.

The NTSB had held a press conference in Kingston on August 31 but failed to invite local newspaper reporters from Montgomery Township, which is where the Princeton Airport is based. The Montgomery News obtained a recording of the press conference.

The other accident involving a Princeton Airport aircraft was on August 9. A small plane — a single-engine Cessna 172R — crashed as it was landing at the airport, located on Route 206 in Montgomery Township.

Plane cracc

The plane crashed into a cluster of trees off Airpark Road. Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Township Police Department.

While attempting to land, a gust of wind blew the plane off course, according to press release from the Montgomery Township police. The pilot tried to gain altitude and in doing so, struck a tree on the south side of Airpark Road, near the entrance to the airport. The crash is being investigated by the FAA.


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