NTSB: See-And-Avoid Concept At Fault In Fatal Midair

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The “see-and-avoid” technique in force for pilots above the Hudson River revealed its “inherent limitations” in the August 2009 midair crash that killed nine people, the NTSB said on Tuesday. “This collision could have been prevented,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “While traffic alerts go a long way in helping pilots ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft, these technologies are not, in and of themselves, enough to keep us safe.Strong operating procedures, professionalism, and commitment to the task at hand — these are all essential to safety.” The safety board cited both the “see-and-avoid” concept and a Teterboro Airport air traffic controller’s “nonpertinent telephone conversation” at the time of the collision as the probable cause of the accident. A synopsis of the board’s report, including recommendations to the FAA, is now available online; a full report will be posted at the NTSB website in a few weeks.

The safety board added that contributing to the cause of the crash between a Piper Lance and a sightseeing helicopter were the ineffective use by both pilots of their aircraft’s electronic advisory system to maintain awareness of other air traffic, FAA’s procedures for transfer of communications among air traffic facilities near the Hudson River, and FAA regulations that did not provide for adequate vertical separation of aircraft operating over the Hudson River.As a result of the accident investigation, the NTSB made recommendations to the FAA regarding changes within the special flight rules area (SFRA) surrounding the Hudson River corridor, vertical separation among aircraft operating in the Hudson River SFRA, see-and-avoid guidance and helicopter electronic traffic advisory systems. The FAA said on Tuesday it took “swift action” after the accident to enhance the safety of the air corridor. New FAA rules now in force for the Hudson River define separate corridors for aircraft flying locally and those in transit.