NTSB’s Hudson Midair Animation Lacking Key Details?


NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman last week spoke before the Subcommittee on Aviation in the U.S. House of Representatives and stated that the pilot of the Piper involved in the fatal midair with a Eurocopter over the Hudson this August may have transferred to the wrong frequency. Hersman told the Subcommittee that the pilot acknowledged the Teterboro controller’s last instruction to pick up Newark, but that “the pilot read back to the controller an incorrect frequency.” There is no indication, according to Hersman, “that the incorrect read-back was heard or corrected by any air traffic controller.” Matched with the NTSB animation released the same day, the read-back occurred while the lone working Teterboro controller was also engaged with what the NTSB identifies as a “personal phone call” and other audible radio communications from a controller at Newark. However, from the NTSB’s animation alone, it is not at all clear that the read-back was incorrect or even complete. (See minute 2:25 of the video, below.) The animation does, however, include transcription of some communications that are not audible in the presentation.

Hersman’s comments are available online, and we expect more as the investigation continues. Multiple major news outlets, from The New York Times to Fox News, have published Hersman’s comments about the inaccurate read-back. Some, including The New York Times and Newsday, have reported the alleged incorrect frequency not audible in the animation and not mentioned in Hersman’s published comments.

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