FAA: no knee-jerk reaction to 'Wild West' Hudson corridor

Washington DC
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The US Federal Aviation Administration is taking a metered response to the 8 August collision between a light aircraft and a sightseeing helicopter in a visual flight rules corridor just west of New York City, despite local legislators' suggestion that the area is akin to the "Wild West".

The accident, which occurred around noontime in clear weather, killed all six on the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, including five Italian tourists, and three aboard the single-engined Piper PA32 Lance.

Despite calls from some quarters for an immediate clampdown on the corridor of airspace, which allows pilots to fly up and down the Hudson river at low altitudes using VFR see-and-avoid tactics, the FAA instead issued a notice to airmen (Notam) three days after the crash and began "conducting a review of operating procedures in that airspace to see if any changes are warranted to improve safety", says the FAA.

The Notam, sent out on 11 August, reminds pilots flying in the corridor to make certain radio broadcasts on common frequencies, turn on anti-collision lights for visibility to other aircraft and to fly at or below 140kt (259km/h).

"These recommendations do not relieve pilots of compliance with applicable FAA regulations, including regulations governing minimum safe altitudes, and see and avoid responsibilities," the Notam says.

A group of lawmakers in Washington asked for more and faster action however. In a letter to FAA administrator Randy Babbitt on 11 August and signed by 15 New York- and New Jersey-area House members, officials called on the FAA to consider banning all flights in the corridor, which has a maximum altitude of 1,100ft (335m), until "radar systems are available to track them".

The group also wanted the FAA to require all aircraft "that seat less than 10 people" to carry collision avoidance systems, a requirement that now applies to passenger-carrying aircraft with 10 or more passenger seats.

"We write to request that the Federal Aviation Administration immediately regulate New York City's congested and dangerous airspace," says the letter. "The Hudson river flight corridor must not continue to be the Wild West. The FAA must act immediately, before further lives are lost."