HACKENSACK, N.J. – Federal investigators combed through the remains of Cory Lidle’s plane Thursday looking for any clue to why it slammed into a Manhattan high-rise, killing the Yankee pitcher and his flight instructor.

Making their task more difficult, Lidle’s single-engine Cirrus SR20 burst into thousands of pieces when it crashed into the 50-story Belaire tower Wednesday afternoon and then fell onto East 72nd Street, several hundred yards from the East River.

Federal officials said the plane was flying at 112 mph at an altitude of 500 feet shortly before impact, yet they hadn’t determined who was at the controls.

Unlike large commercial aircraft, the four-seat propeller plane had no flight data recorder. There was also no mayday call, although investigators were reviewing air traffic control tapes Thursday from Teterboro Airport, where the plane took off. They were also examining tower tapes from Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark Liberty airports, where the plane made radio contact for clearance.

The engine, found in the 40th-floor apartment where the plane crashed, was likely working when the plane hit the building, investigators said.

“The indications were that the propellers were turning and that that would have meant that the power was going to the propellers to cause them to turn,” said Debbie Hersman, a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators continued to collect parts from the street and the building’s apartments and terraces. They planned to remove the plane to an undisclosed location by this afternoon for further examination, Hersman said.

The engine will be shipped to its manufacturer, Teledyne Continental Motors in Alabama. The propeller will be sent to its manufacturer in Ohio. In addition, investigators found a hand-held global positioning system and a memory chip that will be sent to a Washington, D.C., lab for analysis.

Meanwhile, debate continued Thursday over whether small planes should be allowed to fly in New York airspace. Most of the airspace over the Hudson and East rivers is open to small aircraft flying below 1,100 feet.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary restriction requiring all general aviation aircraft flying below 1,500 feet near the city to be authorized by air traffic control.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the crash was an isolated incident and that New York’s skies are safe. Yet New York Gov. George Pataki and Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., called on the FAA to suspend small aircraft from flying in low airspace around Manhattan.

“It’s time to start treating helicopters and small airplanes just as seriously as we do

A woman who lived in an apartment adjacent to the ones destroyed was in fair condition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center on Thursday afternoon after suffering burns on 5 percent of her body, a hospital spokeswoman said.

She remained the only person hospitalized from the crash. Twenty people were treated and released Wednesday.

Killed with Lidle, 34, was his flight instructor, 26-year-old Tyler Stanger, who had been teaching the pitcher since last fall.

Stanger operated a flight school in La Verne, Calif., and lived with his wife and young child in Walnut, Calif. He earned his pilot’s license by age 17 and earned a degree in aviation management from Southern Illinois University, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. In addition to his flight school, he worked for several years as an aircraft mechanic.

Lidle began flying shortly after the end of the 2005 baseball season, when he took a flight with Stanger to Long Beach, Calif. He had logged 88 hours of flight time, federal officials said.

The two were planning to fly from New York to California this week.

Stanger told The New York Times last month that Lidle was his best student. When they practiced emergency procedures – such as flying with a stalled engine – Lidle handled the situation well, he said.

“Most people get kind of ruffled,” Stanger said. “He was like, “OK, no big deal.’ A lot of it is his mental state.

“On the mound, he has to hold in all the emotions and keep completely focused. It’s the same thing flying: If you’re in an emergency, you can’t waste any time worrying. You have to take command of the situation. A lot of people I fly with don’t have that mentality. Cory does.”

Most residents in the Upper East Side neighborhood where the crash occurred tried to go back to their routines Thursday despite a heavy police presence. Residents of 72nd Street were still required to show identification to get to their homes.

Kimberly Purdue, 32, who lives on the block, took her cocker spaniel out for a walk at dawn.

“I moved here because it’s a quiet and dead-end street. But all this,” she said gesturing at the emergency vehicles. “I feel incredibly lucky.”

She wasn’t alone.

“This is a very “routine-ized’ part of town,” said Stuart Gottlieb, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University, who lives across the street from the Belaire. “People keep to themselves. But people are coming together and talking in ways I have never seen before.”


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