Monday, November 16, 2009

FAA To Split Hudson River Airspace

After the disastrous accident that killed the occupants of a sightseeing helicopter and a small private airplane, the FAA has issued new rules splitting the airspace.
One zone will be for local planes and helicopters, such as those carrying commuters and sightseers. Another will be for those passing through the New York City area on longer flights to other destinations.

FAA head Randy Babbitt says the air traffic controller and supervisor who were on duty at the airport where the plane flight originated have been fired.

The changes follow recommendations in an FAA task force report compiled after the collision. They are to take effect Thursday.
Specifically, the FAA calls for the following:
The rule also now requires pilots to follow safety procedures that were previously recommended, but were not mandatory. In a new Special Flight Rules Area over the Hudson and East Rivers, pilots must:

* Maintain a speed of 140 knots or less.
* Turn on anti-collision and aircraft position/navigation lights, if equipped.
* Self-announce their position on specific radio frequencies.
* Carry current charts for the airspace and be familiar with them.

In an exclusion zone below 1,300 feet over the Hudson River, pilots must announce their aircraft type, position, direction and altitude at charted mandatory reporting points and must stay along the New Jersey shoreline when southbound and along the Manhattan shoreline when northbound.

Pilots transiting the Hudson River must fly at an altitude between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet. Local flights will operate in the lower airspace below 1,000 feet.

The rule also will incorporate provisions of an October 2006 Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that restricted fixed-wing aircraft in the exclusion zone over the East River to seaplanes landing or taking off on the river or those specifically approved by FAA air traffic control.
Graphical interpretation of the new rule is here and the situation as it was in place when the accident occurred is here.

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