Commercial, Personal/Corporate, Regulatory

Rotorcraft Report: Hudson Airspace Changes Proposed by FAA

By By Andrew D. Parker, Managing Editor | October 1, 2009

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to establish new regulations, including an "exclusionary zone" to separate helicopters and seaplanes from aircraft flying over the Hudson River in the airspace corridor surrounding New York City. FAA announced the planned changes less than a month after the Aug. 8 midair collision between a Eurocopter AS350B2 and a Piper PA32 over the Hudson, which resulted in nine deaths. The agency has come under intense pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the public to modify procedures in the airspace corridor following the crash, which many argue was avoidable.

A New York Airspace Task Force has developed "a comprehensive series of recommendations that we plan to implement as quickly as possible," says FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

He adds that the changes will "significantly enhance safety in this busy area and create crystal-clear rules for all the pilots who operate there."


According to the FAA’s plan, a uniform floor would be created for Class B airspace over the Hudson River at 1,300 feet that would also serve as the ceiling of the exclusionary zone. Aircraft using visual flight rules would operate between 1,000 and 1,300 feet and share a common radio frequency with aircraft below 1,000 feet. VFR aircraft operating under air traffic control (ATC) rules would fly between 1,300 and 2,000 feet.

Other changes would include creation of a new entry point into the Hudson River airspace from Teterboro Airport (TEB), standardization of New York area charts and new training courses for pilots, ATC personnel and businesses that operate in the region.

Pilots would be required to employ specific radio frequencies for the Hudson and East rivers, and turn on landing lights, navigation equipment and anti-collision devices such as TCAS. Speed limits would be set at 140 knots, and FAA would require pilots to announce when they enter the airspace with aircraft location, description, altitude and direction.

FAA anticipates finalizing and publishing any changes by November 19, in order to integrate them into updated aeronautical charts. The new charts will highlight the Class B VFR corridor, encouraging more pilots to fly over the river under ATC rules vs. using the high-traffic exclusionary zone.

Babbitt notes that FAA has "reinforced how important it is to follow the recommended procedures and maintain professional conduct until we put the new mandatory measures in place."

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