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FAA Hudson Corridor Recommendations Improve Safety

September 17, 2009 — The general aviation industry, FAA and NTSB strongly agree that the FAA’s proposed changes to the Hudson River Class B exclusion zone should be adopted to improve flight safety in that area. That was the focus of panelists who testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's aviation subcommittee on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Appearing before the committee were NTSB Chairperson Deborah Hersman; Hank Krakowski, head of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization; Edward Kragh, air traffic controller based at the tower at Newark Airport; AOPA President Craig Fuller; Matthew Zuccaro, president of the Helicopter Association International; and James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association. Kragh and Zuccaro served on the New York VFR Airspace Task Force, a working group whose recommendations formed the basis of FAA’s proposed airspace and procedure changes in the corridor.

EAA has been active on the Hill working with the House GA Caucus and committee staff to educate Congressional members and their staff in an effort to prevent knee-jerk political reactions in the wake of the Hudson River corridor mid-air collision that claimed the lives of nine people in early August. Some elected officials in New York/New Jersey have called for a variety of radical changes to the airspace, including limiting the number of flights over the Hudson or shutting down the airspace completely.

During Wednesday’s hearing, AirVenture Oshkosh was referenced several times by FAA and other panel members during the hearing to illustrate how large numbers of aircraft can operate safely and efficiently in a congested airspace using published procedures, charted reporting points and see-and-avoid traffic separation.  The VFR procedures recommended by FAA for the Hudson River exclusion zone mirror many of the procedures EAA has used for years to manage traffic flow to and from our annual convention, AirVenture Oshkosh.

The safety enhancements called for by FAA in its September 16 notice of proposed rulemaking would create a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) that would codify current best practices. These include maintaining indicated airspeed not to exceed 140 knots; turning on lights; and self-announcing position on the appropriate radio frequency. New rules would also restructure the airspace, create a new entry point into the Hudson River airspace from Teterboro, standardize New York area charts, and develop new training for pilots, air traffic controllers, and businesses that operate helicopters and aircraft in the area.

“EAA is working hard to communicate with key decision makers on the Hill and help them understand why the recommendations proposed by the airspace working group and subsequently adopted by the FAA are the right way to go to improve safety in the airspace above the Hudson River and elsewhere around Manhattan,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government affairs. “The recommendations are not based on ulterior motives such as business considerations, noise issues, or any other politically motivated matters, but rather, go straight to the heart of operational safety considerations involving airspace design, air traffic and communications procedures, pilot education, operating rules and charting.”

The FAA expects to complete and publish any changes in time to have them in effect by November 19, so that they can be incorporated on new, standardized aeronautical charts. Those new charts will highlight the Class B VFR corridor, encouraging more pilots to exercise the option to fly over the Hudson River under air traffic control, instead of entering the congested exclusionary zone.

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