NTSB Release On Hudson Midair

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The NTSB reported Friday that the Teterboro controller who last spoke with the pilot of the Piper Saratoga that last Saturday collided with a Eurocopter over the Hudson River, killing all nine aboard both aircraft, told the pilot to contact Newark on 127.85 about 40 seconds before the aircraft reached the river and did not warn the pilot of traffic. "At that time," says the report, "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 NTSB adds that, "the Teterboro tower controller, who was engaged in a phone call at the time, did not advise the pilot of the potential traffic conflicts." The Newark tower controller called Teterboro asking that the controller instruct the pilot to turn "to resolve the potential conflicts," but at the time of the call the pilot was confirming with Teterboro the frequency change. The Teterboro controller did then make multiple attempts to contact the Piper, but the pilot did not respond. The collision occurred shortly thereafter, but not before setting off aural and visual "conflict alert" indications at both Teterboro and Newark air traffic control towers. In interviews with the NTSB both controllers stated they did not recall hearing or seeing the alerts.

The pilot of the accident aircraft did not make a call to Newark prior to the accident, according to the NTSB's review of recorded communications. The helicopter, operated by Liberty Tours, followed "the expected path for the tour flight," according to the report. The Teterboro controller called the Newark controller five seconds after the collision to ask about the handoff and was told that the pilot had not called in. Of five controllers staffing Teterboro Air Traffic Control Tower, two were working the tower at the time of the accident. According to the NTSB, "two other controllers were on break and the front line manager had left the facility." The Bureau added, "The role that air traffic control might have played in this accident will be determined by the NTSB as the investigation progresses." Two controllers from Teterboro have already been suspended for their actions during the timeframe of the accident, even though "we have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident," the FAA said in a statement.