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April 14, 2020

In the 1950s, a Pilot Twice Landed an Aircraft on the Streets of New York City While Drunk to Win a Bar Bet

While drinking, a pilot bet he could land outside the bar, 2 hours later he touched down in central New York in a stolen aircraft. Years latter he repeated the stunt because someone wouldn’t believe him.

It was on September 30, 1956 and New Jersey resident Thomas Fitzpatrick was visiting pals in his old stomping grounds of Washington Heights, in New York City. After a few drinks at a bar, the story goes someone proposed a bet that Fitzpatrick couldn’t get from Jersey to the Heights in 15 minutes.

Apparently, when he returned to Jersey that night, the challenge still stuck in his craw. So at around 3 a.m. he snuck into a single-engine plane at the Teterboro School of Aeronautics. Then, fortified by the courage that earned him a Purple Heart during the Korean War – and also maybe by beer — he flew the thing back to the Big Apple. Nailing a perfect landing on St. Nicholas Avenue near 191st Street in front of the bar in which the bet was placed earlier that day.

The New York Times called it a “fine landing” and reported that it had been widely called “a feat of aeronautics.” In that gentler era, Thomas was hailed not as a threat to society, but a minor hero. The plane’s owner refused to press charges. So instead of going to jail for grand larceny, Thomas’s only punishment was a hundred dollar fine. Which might explain why, two years later, he did it again.

Seriously. On October 4, 1958 just before 1 a.m., Fitzpatrick again stole another plane from the same airfield and landed on Amsterdam and 187th after another bar patron disbelieved his first feat.

For his second stolen flight, judge John A. Mullen sentenced him to six months in prison. When asked why did had undertaken the 2nd flight Fitzpatrick told the police “that he had pulled off the second flight after a bar patron refused to believe he had done the first one”

Fitzpatrick has three sons and was married to his wife, Helen, for 51 years working as a steamfitter. He sadly died in 2009 at the age of 79 Fitzpatrick has a mixed drink named after him for his feat called the “Late Night Flight”.


  1. Remember when this site used to be about vintage photographs?
    Now it is old tabloid fodder and granny's snapshots of the girls in the kitchen.
    Oh, and celeb cheesecake pics of course, because sex sells.

    1. I was going to say it isn't as bad as you claim, but then I took a look at what has been getting posted lately and find that you are right. Not sure when that happened or why.

  2. Ha! The second one, the plane has a chalk out line underneath. That means the airplane was murdered.




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