Hudson River rules take effect Nov. 19

November 17, 2009

The New York City Class B Hudson River exclusion zone will become a special flight rules area (SFRA) on Nov. 19. While this may change how some pilots operate in the area, the airspace will remain open for general aviation pilots to get a bird’s-eye view of the famous skyline and Statue of Liberty.

AOPA had advocated for GA pilots’ continued access to the airspace while it participated on the New York Hudson River Task Force. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt created the task force in order to develop safety recommendations for the area.

The SFRA incorporates the group’s recommendations as well as input from pilots who participated in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s “Tight Spots: Collision Avoidance in the Hudson Corridor” safety seminar that took place shortly after the fatal August accident between a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft that thrust the corridor into the national spotlight.

The corridor, which was created in 1971 when the FAA established the terminal control area (now Class B airspace) in the New York City area, had remained largely the same while air traffic increased dramatically, according to the agency.

When flying in the SFRA, effective 0901 Zulu on Nov. 19, pilots must fly at 140 KIAS or less; turn on anticollision and position/navigation lights (landing light recommended); self announce aircraft position on the appropriate frequency; and carry a current New York Terminal Area Chart or New York Helicopter Route Chart and be familiar with the information on it. Pilots should include the aircraft type, current position, direction of flight, and altitude at each mandatory checkpoint indicated on the back of the chart. Because of input from pilots at the Air Safety Foundation’s safety seminar, the FAA will not require the report to include the aircraft’s color.

Additionally, pilots must fly along the west shoreline of the Hudson River when southbound and along the east shoreline when northbound. Those who are transiting the area—flying the entire length of the Hudson River Class B exclusion—must fly between 1,000 feet msl and 1,299 feet msl. Local operations for sightseeing, electronic news gathering, and law enforcement must be conducted below 1,000 feet msl.

The FAA also has modified the New York Class B airspace, creating a standard Class B floor of 1,300 feet msl over the Hudson River exclusion zone. Previously, the floor of the Class B airspace in that area varied at 1,100 feet msl and 1,500 feet msl.

“The FAA considered all input from the task force and pilots to create an SFRA that will enhance safety while still allowing the Hudson River exclusion to be a vital resource for the entire aviation community,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, who represented the association on the task force. “This is a positive outcome from the tragic accident and shows what can be accomplished when stakeholders work together.”

ASF seminarWhile AOPA advocated for continued access to the airspace, the Air Safety Foundation reached out to help pilots become more familiar with the area and implement safety procedures in their flights in the area. In the months following the fatal accident, the foundation conducted two safety seminars and Webinars that reached hundreds of pilots. The most recent occurred Nov. 16 in White Plains, N.Y., hosting 350 pilots in person and 260 participants online. The presentation, co-sponsored by the Westchester Airport Association, included representatives from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, FAA, air traffic control, and the Eastern Region Helicopter Council and gave pilots a heads-up of the requirements in the final rule as well as some general collision avoidance tips.

“The practical recommendations included in the SFRA will help pilots to navigate the corridor safely, but we’ve gone a step further to equip pilots with the tools they need for safe flight in all congested airspace,” said AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg. “Every pilot can gain valuable insight from it, whether or not they ever fly in the corridor. The most positive outcome from the fatal August accident is to learn from it and prevent similar events in the future.”

The FAA has an online training course,  New York City Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), to familiarize pilots with the requirements for flying within the corridor and the SFRA. The course includes a simulation of how a flight in the exclusion is conducted, along with the visual reporting points and audio examples of position reporting calls. (To receive FAA Wings credit, log in to the FAA’s Web site to take the course.) There is also a quiz to test your understanding of the information and a kneeboard summary of requirements for the exclusion.