NEW YORK (WPIX)—Members of the National Transportation Safety Board are set to examine whether stricter airspace regulations need to be introduced in New York as a result of Saturday's fatal mid-air collision that left nine people dead.
"[We are] going to be looking at the operations in this airspace," said NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman in a Sunday press conference, "We do know it's very congested."
The skies of the Hudson River corridor are typically busy with shuttle planes and helicopters travelling to local airports -- John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport -- or heliports on East 34th Street, West 30th Street and Wall Street.
According to the NTSB, small aircrafts are allowed to fly under 1,100 feet in the Hudson River corridor without permission from air traffic control. At this low altitude, pilots are required to navigate the airspace visually. Aircrafts flying at an altitude above 1,100 feet enter the Hudson Exclusion Zone and require clearance to fly.
Saturday's accident involved a single engine passenger plane that crashed into a sightseeing helicopter.
The plane, a Piper PA-32R-300, left Teterboro Airport at 11:54am with a pilot and two passengers and was bound for Ocean City, New Jersey. The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS 350 BA, was part of a fleet operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours of New York, left the West 30th Street heliport and had a pilot and five Italian tourists.
At the time of the accident, the helicopter was gaining altitude and heading south to begin its 12-minute tour of the city.
"These are very heavily used corridors," said Mayor Michael Blomberg in an interview with Meet The Press on Sunday, "Helicopters are very important to the city and used all the time. The tourists seem to love it."
But Bruce Landsberg, president of Maryland safety group Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said imposing restrictions on the Hudson corridor would overload local air traffic towers with small aircraft requests.
Richmond Pilots Corp. flight instructor Stanley Ferber, of Brooklyn, also feels more regulation is not necessary. "To have one mid-air collision, I don't think that calls out for regulation," Ferber said. He also said that pilots need to be fully alert as they fly through the Hudson corridor. "There's an awful lot of traffic there," Ferber said, "It's not different from driving on a highway."
There are already FAA restrictions enforced for New York City's narrower East River corridor resulting from a fatal aircraft accident in October 2006. Small aircrafts require permission from air traffic control to enter this airspace, with the exception of seaplanes and helicopters.
The limitations were imposed two days after a Cirrus Design Corp. SR-20 crashed into a luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side as it was attempting to make a U-turn.
NTSB investigators were never able to determine if it was New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle, 34, or his instructor, Tyler Stanger, 26, navigating the plane at the time of the accident. However, the NTSB was able to determine that poor piloting was the cause of the crash. Both Lidle and Stanger died in the crash.
"If the safety board determines that there are any issues that need to be addressed immediately because of an acute safety concern, we will issue urgent safety recommendations," Hersman also said in the press conference, "It's too early in the investigation for us to identify a cause at this point."