The National Transportation Safety Board today issued five safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) resulting from the Safety Board's ongoing investigation of the midair collision over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey on August 8, 2009. The collision of a Eurocopter AS350 BA helicopter, and a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane caused nine fatalities, including the pilot and five passengers aboard the helicopter and the pilot and two passengers aboard the airplane.
The helicopter flight was a local sightseeing flight conducted under the provisions of Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 135 and 136. The airplane flight was a personal flight conducted under CFR part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plans were required or filed for either flight. However, the airplane pilot requested flight-following services.
The area surrounding the major airports in New York City is designated class B airspace. Pilots are required to get permission from air traffic control (ATC) to enter class B airspace and to follow ATC instructions once there. The collision occurred in the Hudson River class B exclusion area, a passageway through the New York City area class B airspace that permits (non-air carrier) aircraft to fly north and south along the Hudson River without authorization from air traffic controllers.
Aircraft, such as the accident airplane, departing Teterboro airport for destinations to the south or southeast must either request ATC clearance to enter the class B airspace or circumnavigate the class B airspace around Newark airport to the west or use the Hudson River class B exclusion area. In the Hudson River class B exclusion area, they are required to remain at or below 1,100 feet.
"The FAA has established procedures for operation within the Hudson River class B exclusion area that are designed to minimize the risk of collision, but as this accident demonstrates, there are still situations when these established procedures are not enough," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman. "Our recommendations suggest operational changes that can make this corridor a safer place to fly."
These new recommendations ask the FAA to revise standard operating ATC procedures for the Hudson River class B exclusion area, and to brief air traffic controllers and supervisors about the circumstances of this accident, emphasizing the requirement to remain attentive when on duty. The recommendations also ask the FAA to establish a special flight rules area (SFRA) for the class B exclusion areas near New York City, require vertical separation between helicopters and airplanes in these SFRAs, require pilots to complete specific training on the SFRA requirements before flight within the area, and conduct a review of other airspace configurations where specific pilot training and familiarization would improve safety.