FAA offers commonsense action plan for Hudson River

September 2, 2009

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Sept. 2 announced steps the agency will take to enhance safety in the Hudson River Class B exclusion zone—steps AOPA believes are sensible and the most likely to have a favorable effect.

The plan is the direct result of a working group convened by Babbitt just two weeks ago. The FAA will implement the working group’s eight recommendations, which align closely with those developed independently by the NTSB.

AOPA and other aviation groups were given the opportunity to provide input to the working group.

“This is a great example of the government and the industry working cooperatively and acting swiftly and decisively to enhance safety,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “The plan addresses all of the concerns raised in the NTSB recommendations and does so without imposing undue burdens on pilots using the airspace.”

The working group report suggests making current best practices—flying with lights on, two-way air-to-air communication, etc.—mandatory, and for developing flight rules and training for operations in the exclusion zone. AOPA notes that in many instances, such as developing training materials, industry groups like the AOPA Air Safety Foundation have greater flexibility to work swiftly and to target the required audience than the government can through the cumbersome federal regulatory process.

The FAA plan also goes beyond the NTSB recommendations by adding improved charting to include VFR flyways, which will give pilots more and better information.

“The FAA is placing some of the burden for enhancing safety on themselves with new charting requirements,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “As for the pilot requirements, most of them are things pilots ought to be doing already. The net effect is that the airspace remains open and available.”

Some members of Congress have called for tighter regulation and may not feel the FAA plan goes far enough. But AOPA’s legislative affairs staff will be working with key Capitol Hill decision makers to ensure that they understand the significance of the FAA recommendations and that the general aviation community supports the recommendations as the most effective way to further enhance safety over the Hudson River.

“We still do not know all the facts in this particular accident, and it’s possible that none of these recommendations would have prevented it from happening,” concluded Fuller. “But one of the hallmarks of the aviation industry is that we always try to learn from previous accidents, and if the FAA’s action plan prevents a future accident, it will have been worth the effort.”