EAST FARMINGDALE - The pilot of a small plane that crashed in Syosset, killing all three people on board, reported problems with the plane's instrument panel, prompting questions about how pilots can prepare for such failures.

Moments after the pilot made the distress call Tuesday about the plane's control panel and about the loss of the vacuum system, the plane broke apart. Parts of shredded metal and debris fell from the sky, sending Syosset residents running for cover.

Michael Canders, the director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College, says because the pilot radioed to the control tower that part of the plane's instrument panel failed, vital instruments that are used to pilot a plane may not have been working.

A pilot can become very dependent on a plane's instrument panel if the pilot is unable to see the horizon because of weather or cloud conditions, according to Canders. But Canders says if the panel fails, which gives information about altitude and more, the pilot can easily become disoriented and not be able to tell whether the plane is even right-side up.

Canders says students at Farmingdale State College prepare for potentially dangerous incidents with a "partial-panel situation" in a flight simulator. During the simulation, students are able to identify problems with their responses, such as overcorrecting a plane.

He hopes that the Syosset plane crash will serve as a reminder to students and pilots to remain proficient.

Canders emphasizes that it is important not to speculate about the cause of the Syosset crash because the National Transportation Safety Board has just started its investigation.