Helicopter, Plane Collide Over Hudson

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The midair collision Saturday of a Piper Saratoga and a Liberty Helicopters American Eurocopter EC 130 over the Hudson River killed all nine people aboard both aircraft and again brought attention to the flight rules that govern the narrow, high traffic, VFR corridors that border Manhattan. The rules allow aircraft to fly at less than 1,100 feet in some areas over the Hudson River, meaning that traffic is funneled between skyscrapers that are now on both the New York and New Jersey sides of the river, over bridges barges and boats, and under the imaginary ceiling that forms the bottom of very busy Class B airspace between Newark, and both LaGuardia and JFK International airports. In practice, VFR traffic flying the route will often be passing opposite-direction traffic flying at the same altitude at points where the river is less than one mile wide. The NTSB said Monday that within three miles of the accident site the average traffic has recently been 225 aircraft per day. Along with the visual picture outside, VFR pilots flying the corridor must also keep up (via radio) with the mental moving picture of where other aircraft are and where those aircraft are going to be relative to their own changing position. New York Senator Charles Schumer noted Sunday that the investigation is incomplete but said through a statement, "I have long believed that virtually unregulated general aviation flight traffic over the Hudson River poses a serious safety and security risk to new Yorkers."

Aside from monitoring and self-announcing on the common frequency, those pilots entering and exiting the corridor may also be tasked with monitoring or communicating on other frequencies too. Such would often be the case for aircraft as they transition to Teterboro, from which the Saratoga had departed, or in and out of heliports as the Eurocopter did. In 2006 a Cirrus SR20 crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper, killing Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his instructor as the aircraft they were flying attempted to negotiate New York's East River corridor.