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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-09-085
Details
Synopsis: On August 8, 2009, about 1153 eastern daylight time, a Eurocopter AS350 BA helicopter, N401LH, operated by Liberty Helicopters, and a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N71MC, operated by a private pilot, were substantially damaged following a midair collision over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot and five passengers aboard the helicopter and the certificated private pilot and two passengers aboard the airplane were killed. The helicopter flight was a local sightseeing flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 135 and 136. The airplane flight was a personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The helicopter departed West 30th Street Heliport, New York, New York, about 1152. The airplane departed Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey, about 1149, destined for Ocean City Municipal Airport, Ocean City, New Jersey. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plans were required or filed for either flight. However, the pilot of the airplane requested flight-following services from TEB air traffic control (ATC).
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: 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.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: Hoboken, NJ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: ERA09MA447AB
Accident Reports: Midair Collision Over Hudson River, Piper PA-32R-300, N71MC, and Eurocopter AS350BA, N401LH
Report #: AAR-10-05
Accident Date: 8/8/2009
Issue Date: 8/27/2009
Date Closed: 3/6/2012
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Collision Avoidance, Procedures, Special Use Airspace

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 3/6/2012
Response: The FAA indicated that it does not plan to take the recommended action because it believes there are not enough altitudes to segregate the many local operations and provide a buffer from the transit corridor. The NTSB continues to believe, however, that the revised airspace does not provide adequate vertical separation between aircraft traversing the exclusion area and aircraft operating in the local area. Because the FAA considers its action in response to Safety Recommendation A-09-85 complete and plans no further action, the recommendation is classified CLOSED—UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/4/2011
Response: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: The FAA assessed the feasibility of segregating aircraft based on type and determined that this is not a viable option in the Hudson River corridor. Analysis of aircraft data indicates altitude stratification within the special flight rules area (SFRA) could introduce additional risk and have unintended consequences by compressing demand into fewer altitude strata. The Modification of the New York, NY, Class B Airspace Area; and Establishment of the New York Class 8 Airspace Hudson River and East River Exclusion SFRA final rule implementation introduced multiple initiatives to reduce collision potential between helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. In March 2010, Liberty Helicopters, Helicopter Flight Services, New York Helicopter Charter, Zip Aviation, and Manhattan Helicopter consolidated tour operations at the Downtown Manhattan/Wall Street Heliport (JRB). Subsequently, in August 2010, a Letter of Agreement (LOA) (enclosure 2) was signed by the air tour operators, La Guardia Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), and Newark ATCT establishing procedures and routes for helicopter air tour operators that enter Class B airspace. The LOA restructured routes to over water, eliminating the East River and Central Park routes. Radar separation is also provided above 1,300 feet above ground level. Enclosure 3 provides a detailed description of these routes. Finally, in October 2010, the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, and the air tour operators, developed commonly used flyover points to standardized arrivals and departures out of JRB. I believe the FAA has effectively addressed this safety recommendation, and I consider our actions complete.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 6/23/2010
Response: The FAA’s final rule revising the New York airspace requires that aircraft transiting the Hudson River fly at an altitude between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet and local flights operate in the airspace below 1,000 feet. This revision would allow a flight traversing the area to fly at 1,000 feet and a local flight in the same area to fly at 999 feet. As the helicopter pilot in the accident that prompted this recommendation shows, pilots do not always hold their assigned altitude to within +/50 feet. As a result, assigned altitudes need to have a sufficient safety factor around them to prevent a mid-air collision. The revised airspace does not provide adequate vertical separation between aircraft traversing the exclusion area and aircraft operating in the local area. Accordingly, pending the FAA’s taking the recommended action, Safety Recommendation A-09-85 is classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/30/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 12/23/2009 2:21:43 PM MC# 2090717: We assessed segregation based on aircraft type but determined that stratification of aircraft based on type of operation over the type of aircraft allows a natural segregation of aircraft traversing the Hudson River corridor. The speed restrictions will minimize the performance differences between helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Aircraft overflying the area within the Hudson River exclusion, but not landing or departing any of the Manhattan heliports, or landing facilities, or conducting any local area operations, must transit the Hudson River Exclusion area at or above an altitude of 1,000 feet MSL up to, but not including the floor of the overlying Class B airspace. In contrast, aircraft landing or departing any of the Manhattan heliports, or landing facilities, or conducting any local area operations, must remain below an altitude of 1,000 feet MSL. The previously mentioned Final Rule establishes the following pilot requirements in both the Hudson River and East River Exclusion areas. • Maintain an indicated airspeed not to exceed 140 knots; • Anti-collision lights and aircraft positionlnavigation lights shall be on. Use of landing lights is recommended; • Self announce position on the appropriate radio frequency for the East River or Hudson River as depicted on the New York VFR TAC and/ or New York Helicopter Route Chart; and • Pilots must have a current New York TAC chart and/or New York Helicopter Route Chart in the aircraft and familiarize themselves with the information contained therein. I believe the FAA has effectively addressed this safety recommendation and I consider our actions complete.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 10/20/2009
Response: Notation 8154: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled "Proposed Modification of the New York, NY, Class B Airspace Area; and Proposed Establishment of the New York Class B Airspace Hudson River and East River Exclusion Special Flight Rules Area," which was published in 74 Federal Register 178 on September 16, 2009. This notice proposes to amend sections of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 71 and 93 as applied to the New York Hudson River and East River class B airspace exclusion areas. The FAA is proposing these changes to enhance safety of flight operations in the New York Hudson River and East River class B airspace exclusion areas. The NTSB recognizes the benefits of these proposed changes and supports rulemaking in this area. As a result of its investigations, the NTSB has issued several safety recommendations since 2007 regarding the Hudson River and East River class B exclusion areas. On October 13, 2006, the FAA published Notice to Airman (NOTAM) 6/3495 indicating that visual flight rules (VFR) flight operations involving fixed-wing aircraft (excluding fixed wing, amphibious aircraft landing in or departing from New York Seaports, Inc. seaplane base) in the East River class B exclusion area are prohibited unless authorized and being controlled by air traffic control (ATC). On May 24, 2007, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation A-07-38, which asked the FAA to "permanently prohibit visual flight rules flight operations involving fixed-wing, nonamphibious aircraft in the New York East River class B exclusion area unless those operations are authorized and being controlled by air traffic control." The FAA noted that further rulemaking actions related to Safety Recommendation A-07-38 were forthcoming as part of a New York class B airspace redesign. On January 11, 2008, this recommendation was classified "Open-Acceptable Response." Most recently, on August 27, 2009, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendations A-09-82 through -86 as a result of the preliminary findings from its investigation of the August 8, 2009, midair collision between a helicopter and a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft operating in accordance with VFR over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. This accident is still under investigation. Safety Recommendation A-09-84 asked the FAA to "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." Safety Recommendation A-09-85 asked the FAA to, "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." The NTSB has not yet received a formal response from the FAA regarding these recommendations. The NPRM proposes to modify 14 CFR 93.353 to prohibit VFR flight operations by fixed-wing aircraft (excluding fixed-wing, amphibious aircraft landing at or departing from the New York Skyports, Inc. seaplane base) in the East River class B exclusion area (extending from the southwestern tip of Governors Island to the northern tip of Roosevelt Island) unless authorized and being controlled by ATC. According to the proposed rules, pilots must contact the LaGuardia ATC Tower prior to Governors Island to obtain authorization. The NTSB agrees with this proposed language, as it responds to Safety Recommendation A-07-38. The NPRM proposes to amend 14 CFR 71.1 to establish a uniform class B airspace floor of 1,300 feet mean sea level (msl) above the Hudson River class B exclusion area. Currently, the floor of the class B airspace above the Hudson River class B exclusion area varies between the altitudes of 1,100 feet msl and 1,500 feet msl at different points along the river. The NPRM indicates that the purpose of this proposed change is to provide separate altitudes for aircraft conducting local operations and aircraft transiting through the Hudson River class B exclusion area. The NPRM also proposes to modifY 14 CFR 93.352 to require aircraft overflying the area within the Hudson River class B exclusion area, but not landing at or departing from any of the Manhattan heliports or landing facilities, or conducting any local area operations, to transit the Hudson River class B exclusion area at or above an altitude of 1,000 feet msl up to, but not including, the base of the overlying class B airspace. The NTSB concurs with the intent of these proposed revisions but is concerned that the proposed changes do not ensure vertical separation between aircraft transiting the Hudson River class B exclusion area and aircraft landing at or departing any of the Manhattan heliports or landing facilities, or aircraft conducting any local area operations. Aircraft landing at or departing any of the Manhattan heliports or landing facilities, or aircraft conducting any local area operations, should be restricted to an altitude below overflying aircraft to ensure vertical separation and help prevent a midair collision. Further, additional guidance should be adopted for aircraft transiting through the area by assigning a fixed altitude for direction of flight to better segregate aircraft in the Hudson River class B exclusion area. The NTSB is also concerned that the NPRM does not include mandatory training for pilots in the Hudson River and East River class B exclusion areas as discussed above in Safety Recommendation A-09-84. Requiring specific training for pilots in this area would ensure that pilots fully understand the operational procedures and SFRA requirements. Accordingly, the rulemaking should require mandatory training for pilots operating within the Hudson River and East River class B exclusion areas similar to the requirements of the Washington, DC, SFRA required training course. 2 The Washington, DC, SFRA required training course provides a dedicated venue for standardized training for all pilots in the area. The NTSB notes that a similar training program for pilots flying in the Hudson River and East River class B exclusion areas would ensure that pilots are familiar with the operating rules of the area. The NPRM also proposes to modify 14 CFR 93.351 to require all pilots operating in the East River and Hudson River class B exclusion areas to maintain an indicated airspeed not to exceed 140 knots; turn on anticollision, position/navigation, and/or landing lights; self-announce their positions on the appropriate radio frequency for the East River or Hudson River as depicted on the New York VFR Terminal Area Chart (TAC) and/or New York Helicopter Route Chart; and have a current New York TAC chart and/or New York Helicopter Route Chart in the aircraft and be familiar with the information contained therein. The NTSB concurs with the requirement that pilots have current charts, but notes that the current New York VFR TAC chart, the New York Helicopter Route Chart, and the New York VFR TAC Helicopter Route Insert have different scales, allowing different types of information to be included on each chart. The NTSB is concerned that fixed-wing aircraft pilots disregard the helicopter charts believing they are not pertinent to their operation. Additionally, the NTSB is concerned that the differences on the various charts could lead to confusion as pilots who have multiple charts may have different information available to them. All three charts should provide the same information by prominently depicting, at a minimum, mandatory reporting points, direction of flight indicators, and notes and notices applicable to all aircraft operators, thereby eliminating multiple source requirements for operating procedures and standardizing operating procedures for both fixed wing aircraft and helicopter pilots operating within the Hudson River and East River class B exclusion areas. The NPRM also proposes to modify 14 CFR 93.352 to require that, at the charted mandatory reporting points, pilots must self-announce the aircraft type and color, current position, and direction of flight and altitude; pilots must fly along the west shoreline of the Hudson River when southbound and along the east shoreline of the Hudson River when northbound; and aircraft overflying the area within the Hudson River class B exclusion area, but not landing at or departing from any of the Manhattan heliports or landing facilities, or conducting any local area operations, must transit the Hudson River class B exclusion area at or above an altitude of 1,000 feet msl up to, but not including, the floor of the overlying class B airspace. The NTSB concurs that mandatory reporting points are necessary. The NTSB is concerned, however, that the proposed rulemaking does not specify the number or potential location of reporting points. The NTSB is also concerned that the additional task of reporting points might be excessive and could distract from the see-and-avoid requirements for pilots operating in the Hudson River class B exclusion area. To better evaluate the potential impact and safety benefit of mandatory reporting points, additional information regarding the number and location of the mandatory reporting points is needed. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this NPRM.