August 17, 2009
By Sarah Brown
The FAA has convened a New York Airspace Working Group to review current operating procedures in the Hudson River Class B exclusion zone and recommend safety improvements to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
Acting in the wake of the fatal mid-air collision over the Hudson River Aug. 8, the FAA convened the working group and tasked it with providing recommendations to improve safety of flight while enabling access in and around New York, focusing on the airspace commonly used by VFR aircraft.
“I applaud the FAA for taking a measured approach to any changes in the Hudson River exclusion zone by drawing aviation stakeholders into the process,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “AOPA looks forward to taking part in the discussion.”
AOPA and EAA have urged the FAA not to rush to regulatory action before a full investigation has been conducted; Fuller and EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny warned in a letter to Babbitt that “acting precipitously, without all the facts, may have unintended consequences while failing to improve safety or prevent future problems.”
Demands for immediate restrictions on traffic in the Hudson corridor are well-intentioned but not well-reasoned, Fuller and Poberezny said. Accidents like the one of Aug. 8 are uncommon occurrences, they said, and the first step must be to conduct a thorough investigation, as the NTSB and FAA are doing.
The working group will solicit comments from helicopter and aircraft operators and will review air traffic and pilot procedures before making its report to Babbitt on Aug. 28.
Airspace such as the Hudson River Class B exclusion zone has recommended procedures, a designated CTAF, right-of-way rules, and defined vertical and lateral boundaries. Babbitt urged all pilots who operate in the area to follow the procedures outlined in a notam the FAA issued on Aug. 11. The notam advises pilots who fly in the airspace over the Hudson and East rivers to turn on their lights, use special radio frequencies, announce when they enter the airspace and fly at 140 knots or less.
AOPA expressed concern in a meeting with town officials from East Hampton, New York, that restrictions proposed to curb airport noise “overwhelmingly” generated by transient commercial flights would unfairly burden traditional airport users.
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