On Saturday, August 9, nine people were killed in a mid-air collision between a Eurocopter AS350 (N401LH) helicopter, operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours, and a Piper PA32 (N71MC) airplane operated by a private pilot. The death toll included five Italian tourists and a pilot from New Jersey in the helicopter and three members of a Pennsylvania family in the airplane.
The crash occurred in the “Hudson River VFR Corridor,” a small slice of airspace above the Hudson River in New York City where flight is permitted under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) below 1,100 feet. The airplane was being controlled by an air traffic controller based at Teterboro Airport. The controller was on a personal telephone call and did not warn the pilot of the Piper aircraft of traffic and also failed to notice that the pilot had incorrectly read-back the frequency for Newark tower when the controller directed him to switch to Newark’s frequency. Neither Newark nor Teterboro were able to contact the pilot in the generic viagra online seconds leading up to the crash and it does not appear that the pilot was monitoring the common frequency in the
These facts remind me that in the recent Colgan accident in Buffalo the pilots were having a personal conversation right up until shortly before the airplane went out of control. The pilots failed to notice the rapidly decaying airspeed and incorrectly responded to the stall warning and the stall that then developed.
These accidents both show how quickly accidents can happen when pilots or controllers are not focused on their jobs. These, however, are not new lessons and we have paid far too much in lost lives to be reminded that even in this automated age, ultimately the safety of flight crews and passengers rests with humans.