The FAA’s proposed changes for handling traffic in the Hudson River corridor are based on the success of air traffic control at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, the head of FAA’s air traffic department told a House Aviation Subcommittee Sept. 16.
Hank Krakowski told the representatives that Oshkosh handles more than 3,000 aircraft movements a day safely with pilots following established rules and having minimum contact with air traffic controllers. He said the classes of airspace were established primarily to protect airline aircraft, but that general aviation pilots operate under specific rules and follow these rules.
Members of the subcommittee got an education on air traffic control and general aviation from other witnesses and also from some of their own legislators.
Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), explained flight rules, stressing that “uncontrolled airspace” is a misnomer as all flights operate under very specific rules. He also pointed out that the night before, the AOPA Air Foundation had presented a program about safe operation in the Hudson River corridor to 350 pilots in the Newark area.
James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), stressed the safety training of general aviation but also urged faster action to modernize the system, commenting to full Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) that he sat in the same chair some 15 years earlier and made similar statements to the committee.
Matthew Zuccaro, president of the Helicopter Association International (HAI), explained how helicopter pilots undergo specific and recurrent training for operation in specific areas. He noted a helicopter pilot who had flown in Vietnam and spent a quarter of a century flying helicopters in the New York area was killed by an automobile on the sidewalk in New York City.
Comments by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a member of the committee, prompted Zuccaro to relate the report of his friend’s death. Ehlers said all aviation magazines are filled with safety material and that pilots undergo more training and testing than most others in transportation. On the day the airplane-helicopter collision killed nine people, more than 100 people had been killed in automobile accidents in New York State alone. He said the public is “dead wrong” about their perception of general aviation safety.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.