NTSB, NATCA At Odds Over Hudson Midair

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The NTSB says it's sticking to its version of the events leading to the Aug. 8 midair collision of a Piper Saratoga and a sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River despite allegations by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that a press release issued last Friday has a significant error. "We stand by the information we put out on Friday," NTSB spokesman Terry Williams told AVweb on Sunday, adding that he had no further comment. In a podcast interview with AVweb on Sunday, NATCA spokesman Ray Adams said the union has asked the NTSB to correct a statement in the press release that says the Teterboro controller working the Piper had the helicopter on his radar screen before the collision but failed to warn the Piper pilot of the potential conflict. The passage in question says: "At that time there were several aircraft detected by radar in the area immediately ahead of the airplane, including the accident helicopter, all of which were potential traffic conflicts for the airplane. The Teterboro tower controller, who was engaged in a phone call at the time, did not advise the pilot of the potential traffic conflicts." Adams said he's reviewed the tapes and the helicopter doesn't appear until seven seconds after the Teterboro controller handed the Piper off to Newark.

Adams said the union isn't disputing the fact that the controller was on the phone, apparently in violation of FAA policy, but he said it's the union's opinion that the controller carried out his mandated responsibility in handling the flight and that he simply couldn't warn the Piper pilot of traffic that had not yet appeared on his screen. He said he was initially told that the NTSB would recant the statement but it hasn't so far. The FAA has suspended the controller for making the unauthorized phone call but has also said the phone call had nothing to do with the accident.