The FAA is proposing restructuring the low-level VFR airspace around Manhattan in reaction to last month's collision between a sightseeing helicopter and a PA32 over the Hudson River. The agency says it wants to separate traffic flying over the river from aircraft flying to and from heliports and seaplane bases by altitude. This will include a new Class B VFR corridor that it hopes will be the preferred choice of pilots flying over the Hudson. This new airspace will go from 1,300 feet to 2,000 feet and aircraft within it will operate under direct air traffic control. Uncontrolled VFR traffic will operate between 1,000 and 1,300 feet and pilots will be required to monitor a common frequency and announce entry, progress and departure from the airspace. The working traffic below 1,000 feet will monitor the same frequency. New charts will be created to clearly delineate the corridors and will highlight the hybridized Class B. "These steps will significantly enhance safety in this busy area and create crystal-clear rules for all of the pilots who operate there," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. The new rule would also formalize some common practices.
Southbound traffic on the river has traditionally stuck to the Jersey side and northbound the Manhattan side and that will become mandatory. Anti-collision and landing lights must be turned on and the speed limit will be 140 knots. These and the rules requiring entry and position reports will also apply to flights over the East River. The new rules will also create standard procedures for controllers and pilots for Teterboro traffic using the corridor. The FAA wants the rules adopted in time for them to have new, detailed charts ready to replace existing charts. The agency says the measures grew out of discussions with the New York Airspace Task Force, which was formed Aug. 14 to look at VFR airspace issues in the area. Last week the NTSB released recommendations on airspace revisions and the FAA says that while those recommendations were not a factor in the creation of the proposed rules, it believes the FAA proposal meets or exceeds the NTSB recommendations. Both AOPA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, who were on the task force, have endorsed the proposed changes.