The pilot in the fatal plane crash in John Prince Park on Sunday morning had his license revoked 21 years ago by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to records obtained Tuesday by The Palm Beach Post.
Philip Castronova made a “fraudulent or intentionally false statement” on his application for a medical certificate in February 1997. An FAA spokesperson did not know what the statement was, but said the application asks for information regarding medical history, alcohol or drug use, or a DUI.
The FAA pulled his license by September, according to the records.
Castronova never attempted to get his license back, FAA records show, even though he could have done so as soon as a year later.
Just months before, the FAA had suspended his license for 180 days for a variety of violations, including flying in poor weather without the proper credentials and not having a current medical certificate. He also didn’t give his certificate to an FAA inspector when requested, didn’t listen to air traffic controllers and operated his plane in a careless or reckless manner, records show.
Castronova, 70, died Sunday morning, along with his wife Mandy, 39, when his Cessna twin-engine aircraft crashed and caught on fire in the suburban Lake Work park near the Lantana airport, the couple’s destination.
Veteran flight instructor and commercial pilot Robert Katz, who tracks aviation accidents across the nation, said he’s come across pilots who have had their licenses suspended or revoked but this case is the “worst” he’s encountered.
“This is the most egregious scofflaw I’ve ever heard of,” Katz said.
Castronova’s friends and family said they were not aware he didn’t have a license, but said they remained confident in his skills.
“It raises some interesting liability issues but as for his ability to fly the plane, he can fly the plane,” said Glenn Corkins, who shared a hangar with Castronova at Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lantana and often flew with him.
The National Transportation Safety Board has not said if Castronova was at the controls of the 1979 Cessna 335 during the flight that originated in Key West. Mandy Castronova did not have a pilot’s license, according to the FAA website. She is not listed in the FAA license database under her married name or her maiden name.
Authorities said there were no other individuals on the plane.
To legally fly a Cessna 335, a pilot’s license with a multi-engine rating is required, the FAA spokesperson said.
The NTSB expects to release initial information about the crash within a week.
Mandy Castronova’s brother, Sam Lane, said Philip Castronova treated his sister like a “queen” and is waiting for authorities to finish their investigation. “He drove the planes his whole life it was God’s way of taking them home,” he said.
The suburban Lake Worth couple was returning from a weekend in Key West when the aircraft crashed about a mile from the Lantana airport. The wreck happened a couple hundred feet from the eastbound lanes of Sixth Avenue South.
The plane tore down tree branches and erupted in flames, but no bystanders at the park were injured. Witnesses reported hearing explosions.
“That airplane could have easily victimized people on the ground and it’s a miracle that did not happen,” Katz said.
Corkins said he flew with Castronova, who also went by the first name of Christiano, on short day trips to Islamorada and Sebring. They also traveled to the Bahamas. Corkins called him a “damn good pilot.” Castronova owned Nova Aviation, which bought and sold planes, Corkins said.
Corkins said he just assumed Castronova had a license. He said he never saw any indication Castronova was medically unfit to fly.
The events that led up to the FAA suspending Castronova’s license happened in the Great Lakes region, an FAA spokesperson said. The FAA office in Chicago handled the case. The false statement on the medical certificate application was reported in FAA’s Northeast region. The New York office handled that one, the spokesperson said.
Records show Castronova was not involved in any plane crashes or similar incidents, the spokesperson added.
A pilot who knew Castronova from when he was at the Lantana airport also said he didn’t know about the license revocation. The pilot, who asked not to be cited by name in this article, said he sometimes flew Castronova and a friend to the Bahamas in Castronova’s plane at Castronova’s request. He said he never asked Castronova why he chose not to fly his own plane on those occasions.
“I’d be very, very very surprised if any of his close friends or even his wife knew his license was revoked. Nobody in their right mind would get into an aircraft with a pilot whose license has been suspended or revoked,” the pilot said.
Castronova’s brother Gary, like several others, said he assumed his brother possessed a license.
“He’s been flying forever,” Gary Castronova said.