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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2009

SCHUMER: DEADLY HUDSON RIVER CRASH EXPOSES REGULATORY CHAOS IN THE SKIES - SENATOR UNVEILS COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO FILL GLARING GAPS IN SAFETY REGULATIONS OVER THE HUDSON


Recent NTSB Recommendations Don't Go Far Enough

Helicopters and Planes Can Fly Below 1,000 FT Without Being Watched -- So Many Crisscrossing Flights that Controllers Can't Spot Trouble Until It's Too Late

Schumer, Who First Raised Safety of Flights Over Hudson River Corridor in 2004, Details Six Specific Proposals to Regulate Low Flights and Helicopters Over the

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer unveiled a comprehensive plan to clear up the airspace over the Hudson River in order to help prevent another deadly crash. Schumer said that the skies over the river have become the wild west of the New York City airspace because at any given time there are countless helicopters and planes flying above and below radar, some in communication with the tower and some flying completely undetected. Schumer detailed six specific proposals that the FAA could implement almost immediately to regulate and monitor traffic over the Hudson River to help ensure another crash never occurs again. Schumer has been raising safety concerns of flights over the Hudson River corridor since 2004.

 

“We cannot let the Hudson River corridor stay the wild west of New York City airspace or the tragic crash earlier this month will be just the beginning,” Schumer said. “The truth is that there is simply not enough regulation for helicopters and planes flying below 1,000 feet and if we don’t take action soon, we will see more tragedies. The skies over the Hudson River are overcrowded and growing more dangerous each year and as we saw just a few weeks ago, not enough is being done to monitor the airspace over the river. With my new comprehensive plan, the skies over the Hudson River will finally be a safe place to fly.”

 

On the afternoon of August 8, a Liberty Tours helicopter carrying six people collided with a small, private plane carrying three people. All nine people perished in the crash. The wreckage was pulled from the Hudson River as crowds of tourists and bystanders, many of whom witnessed the event, looked on. The miscommunication between air traffic controllers and the pilots, in addition to the poor monitoring of the airspace above the Hudson River, have all been blamed for the incident.

 

Schumer’s plan to fill in the glaring safety gaps over the Hudson River includes six specific proposals that will help prevent another tragedy from taking place.

 

  • Schumer is calling on the FAA to focus on making helicopter tourism safer. The FAA does not regulate helicopter routes like those in New York City's airspace, and instead relies on a "see and avoid" strategy for helicopters. Congress has recently put pressure on FAA to make the medical helicopter industry safer.

 

  • Schumer is calling on the FAA to monitor all flights, both helicopters and airplanes, below 1,000 feet and require aircraft to file flight plans. Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place regulating flights below 1,000 feet , leading many to believe that the Hudson crash was the just the beginning.

 

  • The NTSB has an outstanding recommendation that FAA develop safety standards for commercial sightseeing tour operations. This recommendation includes the creation of a pilot training program, heightened maintenance policies and procedures, adequate rest times for pilots, and specifications about routes and altitude restrictions. Schumer is urging the FAA to move quickly to adopt this recommendation.
  • Schumer is pushing for control towers at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey as well as other New York City airports to be fully staffed so these flights can be monitored appropriately.

 

  • Schumer is calling for new technologies to differentiate the type of alarm that goes off in the control towers when flights get too close together. There are so many flights at all times that alarms are often indistinguishable. The closer the planes are, the louder the alarm should be.

 

  • Schumer is calling on Congress to act quickly on FAA reauthorizing legislation, and in it they must adequately fund the deployment of NexGen technology to make air traffic controller operations safer and more efficient. This accident has demonstrated that handoffs between control towers and airports need to be smoother, and investment in technology will help this effort.

 

Schumer added, “While the cause of this terrible crash is still being investigated, virtually unregulated general aviation flight traffic over the Hudson River poses a serious safety and security risk to New Yorkers and the time for action is now.”

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