Near Hoboken, New Jersey
August 8, 2009
NTSB Number: AAR-10-05
NTIS Number: PB2010-910405
Adopted September 14, 2010
On August 8, 2009, at 1153:14 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N71MC, and a Eurocopter AS350BA helicopter, N401LH, operated by Liberty Helicopters, collided over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. The pilot and two passengers aboard the airplane and the pilot and five passengers aboard the helicopter were killed, and both aircraft received substantial damage from the impact. The airplane flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, and the helicopter flight was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Parts 135 and 136. No flight plans were filed or were required for either flight, and visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was (1) the inherent limitations of the see-and-avoid concept, which made it difficult for the airplane pilot to see the helicopter until the final seconds before the collision, and (2) the Teterboro Airport local controller's nonpertinent telephone conversation, which distracted him from his air traffic control (ATC) duties, including correcting the airplane pilot's read back of the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) tower frequency and the timely transfer of communications for the accident airplane to the EWR tower. Contributing to this accident were (1) both pilots' ineffective use of available electronic traffic information to maintain awareness of nearby aircraft, (2) inadequate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) procedures for transfer of communications among ATC facilities near the Hudson River Class B exclusion area, and (3) FAA regulations that did not provide adequate vertical separation for aircraft operating in the Hudson River Class B exclusion area.
Previous safety recommendations issued to the FAA addressed standard operating procedures for the Hudson River Class B exclusion area, ATC performance deficiencies, the designation of a special flight rules area (SFRA) for the Hudson River Class B exclusion area and surrounding areas, and standard operating procedures within and training for SFRAs. The safety issues discussed in this report address changes within the recently designated SFRA surrounding the Hudson River corridor, vertical separation among aircraft operating in the Hudson River SFRA, the see-and-avoid concept, and helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems. Five new safety recommendations to the FAA are included in the report.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommends the following to the Federal Aviation Administration:
Redefine the boundaries of the East River common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) so that the Downtown Manhattan Heliport will be located in the area that uses the Hudson River CTAF. (A-10-124)
Revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations 93.352 to specify altitudes of use for aircraft conducting local operations in the Hudson River special flight rules area so that the regulation includes required operating altitudes for both local and transiting aircraft, and incorporate the altitude information for local operations onto published visual flight rules aeronautical charts for the area. (A-10-125)
Update Advisory Circular 90-48C to reflect current-day operations, including (1) a description of the current National Airspace System and airspace classifications, (2) references to air tour operational areas as high-volume traffic environments, and (3) guidance on the use of electronic traffic advisory systems for pilots operating under the see-and-avoid concept. (A-10-126)
Develop standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems that (1) address, among other flight characteristics, the capability of helicopters to hover and to fly near other aircraft at lower altitudes, slower airspeeds, and different attitudes than fixed-wing airplanes; (2) reduce nuisance alerts when nearby aircraft enter the systems' alerting envelope; and (3) consider the different types of operations conducted by helicopters, including those in congested airspace. (A-10-127) (Supersedes Safety Recommendation A-09-04 and is classified "Open-Unacceptable Response")
Once standards for helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems are developed, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-10-127, require electronic news gathering operators, air tour operators, and other operators of helicopters used for passenger revenue flight to install this equipment on their aircraft. (A-10-128) (Supersedes Safety Recommendation A-09-05)
The National Transportation Safety Board issued the following recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration on August 27, 2009:
Revise standard operating procedures for all air traffic control (ATC) facilities, including those at Teterboro airport, LaGuardia airport, and Newark Liberty International airport, adjoining the Hudson River Class B exclusion area in the following ways:
Brief all air traffic controllers and supervisors on the air traffic control (ATC) performance deficiencies evident in the circumstances of this accident and emphasize the requirement to be attentive and conscientious when performing ATC duties. (A-09-83)
Amend 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 93 to establish [a] special flight rules area (SFRA) including the Hudson River Class B exclusion area, the East River Class B exclusion area, and the area surrounding Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty; define operational procedures for use within the SFRA; and require that pilots complete specific training on the SFRA requirements before flight within the area. (A-09-84)
As part of the special flight rules area procedures requested in Safety Recommendation A-09-84, require vertical separation between helicopters and airplanes by requiring that helicopters operate at a lower altitude than airplanes do, thus minimizing the effect of performance differences between helicopters and airplanes on the ability of pilots to see and avoid other traffic. (A-09-85)
Conduct a review of all Class B airspace to identify any other airspace configurations where specific pilot training and familiarization would improve safety, and, as appropriate, develop special flight rules areas and associated training for pilots operating within those areas. (A-09-86)
Safety Recommendation A-09-04, which was issued to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on February 9, 2009, is reclassified "Closed-Unacceptable Action/Superseded" in section 3.4 of this report. The recommendation is superseded by Safety Recommendation A-10-127.
Develop standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems so that pilots can be alerted to the presence of other aircraft operating in the same area regardless of their position. (A-09-04)
Safety Recommendation A-09-05, which was issued to the FAA on February 9, 2009, is reclassified "Closed-Acceptable Action/Superseded" in section 3.4 of this report. The recommendation is superseded by Safety Recommendation A-10-128.
Once standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems are developed, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-09-04, require electronic news gathering operators to install this equipment on their aircraft. (A-09-05)