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.