Following a five-hour public meeting last Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a multi-pronged probable cause in the Aug. 8, 2009 midair collision of a tour helicopter and small aircraft over the Hudson River near New York City. Nine people died in the accident, which involved a Liberty Helicopters-operated Eurocopter AS350BA and a Piper PA-32R-300. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said that a “series of missteps” led to the crash, which could have been prevented.
According to the board, the limitations of the “see-and-avoid” concept and a non-ATC-related phone conversation that distracted the controller at Teterboro Airport (TEB) were primary causes. The board also determined that both pilots did not sufficiently employ the data from their electronic traffic advisory systems. Other contributing factors were FAA procedures regarding transfer of communication between ATC facilities in the Hudson River Class B airspace region—in this case, between TEB and Newark Intl Airport (EWR)—and FAA regulations at the time that failed to provide enough vertical separation in Hudson River Class B airspace. Two months after the accident, FAA created an “exclusionary zone” to separate helicopters and seaplanes from aircraft flying over the river.