Alexandria, VA, August 10, 2009 - Following last weekend's tragic mid-air accident involving a private airplane and an air tour helicopter, there has been significant media focus on the types of operations involved and the airspace in which the flights were conducted.
"The association and its members express our deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragic accident," explained National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President James K. Coyne. "While events such as last weekend's are extremely rare, they do create an intense focus on the operations involved and can, unfortunately, lead to an environment ripe with speculation and misinformation."
NATA is concerned with the intense scrutiny being placed on the airspace in which general aviation aircraft operate in the New York City area, as well as the correlations being drawn between the fact that the helicopter involved belongs to a commercial air tour operator and the recent report issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General (IG) criticizing oversight of on-demand operations, such as air tours.
The characterization of the airspace as devoid of regulation is inaccurate. The airspace being referred to as "uncontrolled" only indicates that there is no active radar-based control of flights. Operations in this airspace are still subject to numerous regulatory requirements.
While the IG report highlighted the differences between regulation and oversight of the airlines and on-demand operations it failed to acknowledge the necessity of differing regulations due to the fact that on-demand operations comprise a vast number of mission profiles and include nearly every size and type of airplane and helicopter.
"There is much work to be done by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators to determine the facts of what happened," said Coyne. "Regulators and elected officials should reflect upon the outcome of the investigation rather than react to hypothetical scenarios."
At this time there is no indication from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that the FAA's oversight of the air tour operator was in any way related to the tragedy that occurred.
"Certainly the NTSB will look at all facets of the operation of both the airplane and helicopter to determine what facts may be relevant to the investigation. But, until the NTSB releases their findings, I believe it is imperative that we follow the advice of Mayor Bloomberg and avoid unnecessary speculation," Coyne concluded.
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