The FAA has moved quickly to announce proposed changes to the Hudson River corridor following the Aug. 8 collision between an aircraft and a tour helicopter, going beyond the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations.
The proposed changes followed a report of the New York Airspace Task Force, chartered Aug. 14. The group’s work was conducted out of the spotlight and with little fanfare, but results came quickly.
The new rules will restructure the airspace, mandate pilot operating rules, create new entry points in the Hudson River airspace from Teterboro Airport, standardize charts, and create new training for pilots and air traffic controllers.
One of the most significant changes, if adopted, would divide the airspace into altitude corridors that separate aircraft flying over the river from those operating to and from local airports and seaplane bases.
Specifically, this new exclusionary zone would be comprised of three components:
1. It would establish a uniform “floor” for the Class B airspace over the Hudson River at 1,300 feet, which would also serve as the “ceiling” for the exclusionary zone.
2. Between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, it would require aircraft to operate in the Class B airspace under visual flight rules but under positive air traffic control, and to communicate on the appropriate air traffic frequency.
3. Between 1,000 and 1,300 feet, it would require aircraft using VFR to use a common radio frequency for the Hudson River. Aircraft operating below 1,000 feet would use the same radio frequency.
New pilot operating practices would require pilots to use specific radio frequencies for the Hudson River and the East River, would set speeds at 140 knots or less, and would require pilots to turn on anti-collision devices, position or navigation equipment and landing lights. They would also require pilots to announce when they enter the area and to report their aircraft description, location, direction and altitude.
Existing common practices that take pilots along the west shore of the river when they are southbound and along the east shore when they are northbound would become mandatory. In addition, pilots would be required to have charts available and to be familiar with the airspace rules.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said the agency plans to implement the changes “as quickly as possible.” He added that the changes will “make crystal-clear rules for all pilots who operate there.”
AOPA, one of the groups on the task force, said the steps are “sensible and most likely to have a favorable effect.”
AOPA Vice President Melissa Rudinger cited the speed of the action and the proposed changes as “a great example of government and industry working cooperatively and acting swiftly and decisively to enhance safety.”