Renewed Calls for Safety Over City
Divers in the murky waters of the Hudson River have retrieved seven bodies after a weekend mid-air crash.
Saturday around noon, a helicopter and small plane collided and crashed into the river near New York City.
Nine people were onboard both aircraft. Seven bodies have been recovered and two are still missing. The victims came from two families reports the BBC.
Michele Norelli, 51, and his family, visiting with family members from Italy, were aboard the helicopter. His wife, afraid to fly, stayed on the ground.
Daniel Altman and his son Douglas from Pennsylvania were in the plane, along with pilot, Steven Altman, his brother.
The helicopter took off from Liberty Helicopter Tours of New York from the West 30th street heliport and was on the 12-minute “Big Apple” tour.
It was gaining altitude when it was struck by the plane, on its way to Ocean City, New Jersey.
Bloomberg reports that Liberty Tours, which calls itself the largest helicopter sightseeing and charter service in the U.S. Northeast, has been involved in eight accidents from 1995 to last year. This was the first one involving fatalities, reports the National Transportation Safety Board.
An investigation is expected to take months but there were already calls for safety regulations concerning the crowded skies in the safety zone about 1,000 feet above the Hudson River.
The worse air crash in eight years, witnesses report the small plane approached the helicopter from behind. Neither aircraft had a flight data recorder which will complicate the investigation.
The plane’s pilot had failed to contact the Newark Liberty International Airport control tower as was required to after taking off from Teterboro Airport and being handed over electronically to Newark.
The area is frequently crowded with tourist helicopters, and pilots tell the New York Times that it is known to be congested, like the ‘Wild West,’ especially on the weekends.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer in 2005, called for the Hudson River corridor to be shut to general aviation traffic. The Department of Transportation says the privately chartered planes such as helicopters are less safe and less regulated than major carriers.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are gathering facts that could lead to new regulations over the airspace.
NTSB’s chairwoman, Debbie Hersman tells Bloomberg the agency will study the air operations over New York City.
“We do know that the area is very congested,” Hersman said. “Nothing has been ruled out at this point in time. We will be looking at training, qualifications, air-space communication, procedures and policies.”
The Times reports that the pilot of the 1976 Piper PA 32R-300, known as a Lance and the pilot of the helicopter, a 1997 Eurocopter AS 350BA, were both properly licensed and had had regular medical exams.
Radar was taken by the NTSB to help in the investigation and tourists took photographs of the collision with their cameras. It shows the plane’s wing clipped off.
Aircraft flying in the zone under 1,000 feet over the Hudson River, are responsible for seeing and avoiding collisions as they are out of air traffic controllers orders. #