FAA to Modify Airspace Rules Over the Hudson

FAA pushes regulatory changes

By Victoria Cavaliere
|  Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009  |  Updated 6:59 PM EDT
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Friend of Chopper Pilot Gave Last Warning

AP

The wreckage of the helicopter were lifted by crane from the Hudson River and placed on a boat as seen from Hoboken, N.J., Aug. 9.

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There will be new rules governing the airspace over the Hudson River, the Federal Aviation Administration said today, a move that comes on the heels of last month's deadly midair crash involving a tourist helicopter and a small plane.

The new rules include requiring pilots to tune their radios to specific frequencies and restricting speeds to 140 knots or less, the FAA said.
    
Aircraft flying between 1,000 and 1,300 feet would use the same radio frequency as those flying below 1,000 feet, the FAA said. Last month's crash occurred at about 1,100 feet, a space between the lower level where visual flight rules apply and the higher altitude where air traffic controllers guide pilots.

Pilots and officials have said the devastating mid-air collision that killed 9 people could have been foreseen; more than 200 aircraft fly within three miles of the crash site on a daily basis. Current rules allow helicopters to fly without contact if sightseeing over the Hudson and below 1,100 feet, but many are calling for new guidelines after this weekend's tragedy.

In the days after the crash, several lawmakers sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting regulatory changes, saying they were essential for "improving the safety of New York's congested and dangerous airspace."

The crash has spurred heated debate over monitoring low-altitude flights in the busy skies of Manhattan.

The National Transportation Board has said that it suggested ways to make the heavily trafficked fly zone over the Hudson River safer for aircraft -- but was ignored.

NTSB chief Debbie Hersman noted that her agency recommended safety measures for small planes and helicopters flying in the area to the FAA but the latter agency never implemented its suggestions.

The air accident, the deadliest in the New York City area since the 2001 crash of a commercial jet in Queens killed 265 people.

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