FAA, Private Choppers Create Secret Deal That May Make River Travel Dangerous
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New details came to light Monday about a seemingly dangerous agreement between the Federal Aviation Administration and private helicopter tour companies.
It’s an agreement that could put tourist choppers on a collision course with small planes in the airspace over the Hudson River.
CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer has more on the “under the radar” deal that has at least one congresswoman fuming.
“I think it’s outrageous and dangerous,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-Manhattan, said.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond On The Story
Just a week after a helicopter crash in the East River killed one tourist and seriously injured two others there is word that the FAA and the city’s tourist helicopter companies struck a deal that could pose even more problems in the skies over the city. The change creates two “holes” for helicopters to drop into the small aircraft corridor along the Hudson and East rivers.
“I’d like to see non-essential air flight reduced and made safer. I believe that air traffic controllers should be involved in helicopter flights and in small plane flights so that we don’t have collisions like we had in 2009,” Rep. Maloney said.
Pilot and aviation safety advocate Ken Paskar of Manhattan called it insane and a safety risk.
“The other problem about this is it was done very much under the radar. Pilots who are flying these fixed-wing aircraft are surprised when they see the helicopter flights in their reserved airspace,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.
On Aug. 8, 2009 nine people died when a tour helicopter taking off from the 30th Street Heliport collided with a small plane over the Hudson. An air traffic controller was ruled to be partially at fault. After the accident air space rules were supposed to be tightened, but some critics say the new deal — which allows choppers and small aircraft in the same corridor between 1,000 and 1,300 feet up — has some, well, holes in it.
The FAA says that if your chopper enters the same zone as a small plane you’re supposed to self announce at places like the George Washington Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Under the deal tourist helicopters report to air traffic controllers only if they’re flying above 1,300 feet.
A spokesman for the city’s tourist helicopter industry defended the new plan.
“The plan was developed to ensure the safety of these flights, as well as to reduce the number of flights over sensitive areas and lower the impacts to local communities,” said Jeffrey Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.
The deal also eliminated tourist flights over Central Park and the Empire State Building due to local noise concerns.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a helicopter pilot himself, defended the deal, saying every pilot follows the FAA rules explicitly or they lose their license.
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