Did The FAA Get This One Right?

An online discussion between helicopter operators and local ATC on the FAAs proposed low-altitude airspace and procedure revisions for New York City.


In last months Editors Log, under the heading, “Unwritten Rules,” we discussed the tragic August 8, 2009, mid-air collision between a Piper PA-32R-300 and Eurocopter AS350 operating as a for-hire tour over the Hudson River off New York City. The Piper had just departed nearby Teterboro Airport while the helicopter had launched a few moments before from the West 30th Street Heliport. The two collided over the Hudson Rivers west bank; all nine aboard both aircraft perished.

Piper PA-32R-300 and Eurocopter AS350


The collision engendered just the kind of hysteria to which those who pay attention to the mass medias coverage of general aviation have grown accustomed. Elected officials and average citizens alike marched forth to complain there were no rules concerning such operations, and non-scheduled flights should be (choose one or all) banned, subject to specific training and approvals or under new operating rules, including positive ATC direction.

In last months issue, we noted the recommended procedures printed on the New York Helicopter Chart, an excerpt of which is included below, and suggested “it might be time for users and the FAA to come up with a set of formal, published procedures accommodating fixed and rotary-wing aircraft in the area. Maybe reducing the Class Bs impact would help, too.” After a few weeks of activities by the NTSB and the FAA, it seems that might be whats about to happen.

On September 2, 2009, the FAA announced plans to modify the subject airspace. The plans are a direct result of a New York Airspace Task Force chartered by FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on August 14. (Yes, it appears the FAA can move quickly when it wants to.)

According to an FAA press release, planned enhancements would restructure the airspace, mandate pilot operating rules, create a new entry point into the Hudson River airspace from Teterboro, standardize New York area charts and develop new training for pilots, air traffic controllers and businesses operating in the area.

To help us all learn more about these proposals and how they might affect operations in this airspace, Aviation Safety is inaugurating new multimedia content. For example, we are developing audio content, delivered via podcast and focused on panel discussions, to both complement articles we run in the magazine and explore unrelated issues. Well also plan to develop video content; both formats will be delivered via our online sister publication, AVweb.

This first installment will feature a roundtable discussion between Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, Eddie Kragh, an air traffic controller at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport, and me. For details on how to access this podcast, see below.

– Jeb Burnside


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