Skip to comments.NTSB: Controller Should Have Warned Plane in Hudson Crash (Officials: Cont. didn't follow procedure)
Posted on 08/27/2009 3:59:03 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Federal safety officials say an air traffic controller should have warned the pilot of a small plane that collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River that there were other aircraft in his path.
The Aug. 8 accident in the heavily-trafficked skies over the Hudson killed nine people, and caused politicians to call for a revamping of the rules that govern the airspace around Manhattan.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a letter released Thursday that if the controller at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey had been following procedures he would have warned the pilot of the other traffic in his path.
Instead, the now-suspended controller, identified as Carl Turner, 38, was talking on the phone to a female friend at the time of the crash -- about the woman's dead cat.
Moments before the horrific collision, the controller joked that his girlfriend should "fire up the cat" on their gas grill.
Turner's supervisor, Dennis Moore, was also suspended for being out of the booth during the incident.
It’s too important a job to feel sorry for this guy.
After reading the timeline of the events the other day on another thread, I am not surprised that the controller was found to be at fault, for allowing this accident to happen. If he had been doing his job, instead of talking on the phone about a dead cat, imo, this accident probably would never have happened?
According to preliminary data provided to the Safety Board by the Federal Aviation Administration, the controller cleared the accident airplane for departure at 11:48:30. The first radar target for the airplane was detected at 11:49:55, at about 300 feet. The controller initiated a non-business-related telephone conversation at 11:50:31. Prior to the Teterboro controller instructing the pilot to contact Newark Tower at 1152:20, there were several aircraft in the Hudson River Class B Exclusion Area in the vicinity of the airplane, some of which were potential traffic conflicts. These were detected by radar and displayed on the controller's scope in Teterboro tower. The Teterboro controller did not alert the airplane pilot to this traffic prior to instructing him to change his radio frequency and contact Newark. The accident helicopter was not visible on the Teterboro controller's radar scope at 1152:20; it did appear on radar 7 seconds later - at approximately 400 feet.
At 1152:54, 20 seconds prior to the collision, the radar data processing system detected a conflict between the accident airplane and the accident helicopter, which set off aural alarms and caused a "conflict alert" indication to appear on the radar displays at both Teterboro and Newark towers. The controller terminated his non-business-related telephone call at 11:53:13. The collision occurred at 11:53:14.
I hope he goes to prison.
Seems to me it’s confusing to have a hand off as an SOP in an area where there is so much traffic and so little space. Regardless of what either controller was doing the time, it takes time to initiate a hand off, and for the pilot to complete the process to the point communication and positive radar identification by the new controller is established.
It would seem to me they would have a controller who handles traffic in the VFR corridor. The departing tower would know that the moment the aircraft was in the air it would be the responsibility of the corridor controllers. I know it’s much more complicated than this, but it just seems there must be a better way.
And people get their underwear in a bunch when you DRIVE and talk on the cell phone!!!
Who is that guy? The controller or supervisor?
What I do not understand is there was no action on the part of the controller when the alarms started going off.
He is the Supervisor who was out of the building during the accident, when he was supposed to be on the job. Was he promoted because of Affirmative Action? Need I ask?
I am looking for the photo of the Controller who was joking about eating a barbecued cat, but haven’t found one yet. His name is Carl Turner.
How is the controller supposed to tell the Piper pilot not to hit traffic that isn't on his scope. Even if the Piper pilot was alerted to traffic on the Hudson I don't think he would have ever seen the helicopter that was climbing in front of the Piper, most likely out of the pilot's view due to the engine. Most GA aircraft have really poor visibility.
The biggest question I would like to know is if the either of the aircraft had TCAD. It costs money, but if you are a commercial operator, in that airspace, you ought to have it.
I'm not sure what the answer is. Usually tower controllers control their piece of airspace and switch aircraft prior to exiting the Class D airspace. They usually receive inbound aircraft prior to the aircraft entering class D airspace.
I wonder if another option would be to have the helo operator contact one of the towers just prior to takeoff. At the airfield I fly out of the medivac helicopters use a hospital helipad that is inside the Class D airspace. They contact the tower prior to taking off so that the tower can warn them of traffic. Personally, I can't see operating the AS350 for commercial purposes in a high traffic area without TCAD.
“At 11:52:54, 20 seconds prior to the collision, the radar data processing system detected a conflict between the accident airplane and the accident helicopter, which set off aural alarms and caused a “conflict alert” indication to appear on the radar displays at both Teterboro and Newark towers.”
I think the alarms went off only 20 seconds or so before the collision. One of the controllers attempted to warn the fixed wing but got no response. Things are happening so fast and so many things are going on that it takes a finite amount of time to hear the alarm and then get a fix on what it’s warning means.
I could be wrong on the time, but as I recall there was a very short period of time between the alarm and the collision.
Also, IIRC, one controller had to communicate with the other to have the second one give the warning.
That happened thirty seconds after the Piper was instructed to switch freqs, with the first radar hit on the helicopter appearing 7 seconds after he was told to switch.
I agree there was very little time. That is why the controller was at fault, imo, because he should have been totally focused on the job at hand. Every second counts.
See post 18. It is tough to warn a pilot that is no longer up your frequency.
I would have thought the helicopter pilot would routinely contact the controller of the airspace to announce a departure. I would also expect the helicopter to have a discreet squawk that stays with it during the time they’re doing the tours. Not to mention a pretty regimented path for the tours. As soon as the controller sees that code he knows where the helicopter is going and at what altitude. Are the pilots of the tours in regular communication with controllers of either airport?
I don’t know enough about how the system up there works to have any opinion that’s any better than pure speculation. I would have thought that after all these years there would have evolved a system, even unofficially, that works for everyone. When I think about it though, there must be something, there are precious few midair collisions in the corridor, despite the hundreds of operations every day, day in and day out.
Frankly, it makes my brain hurt to try and imagine operating in that airspace!
Yes, the Piper was told to switch, but the Newark controller told the Teterboro controller that the Piper could not be reached, prior to the collision. I think if the the controller had been more alert on the job at hand, then perhaps this tragedy may have never happened? We do not know that for sure, but definitely the controller could have had a hand in possibly preventing it from happening, if he was not preoccupied with his personal call.
You are right about one thing. That is a piece of airspace I wouldn't want to fly into.
I don't even know if you have to have permission to use the corridor in NYC or not. Maybe someone who knows what they're talking about will hop in an enlighten me!
Here's another view point from an experienced source.
Visual Flight Rules are just that. Visual separation. See and been seen is the responsibility of the pilot in command. Aircraft on a steady collision course are perfectly stationary in either pilots field of view. General aviation aircraft are tiny until they are inside 2 miles of separation and then they grow visually larger at a geometric rate with closing speeds of 250 knots or greater. That's less than 20 seconds to recognize the threat and displace 2500 lbs of mass at least 50 feet.
Flight operations in a saturated VFR corridor are not the domain of the novice. Relying on ground separation outside controlled airspace is a fools errand and an inducement to complacency in even the very experienced.
Add to that mix, upwardly arching flight paths from below (rotary wing) and accidents are not a surprise. My only surprise, an one of the few federal failings I see in this predictable tragedy are regulations that allow an uncontrolled airport (heliport) to be placed in the middle of that mess.
No, the controller and his supervisor hadn't the slightest contribution to this accident. They were most probably punished because their deviation from professional behavior gave a plausible excuse for political scapegoating.
Here is a link to a good graphic of the course the Piper took from TEB. In essence he flew straight from the airport to the Statue. I have read a couple of online statements from pilots that fly in that area that suggest the best way to enter the corridor is stay in the TEB class D and enter near the G.W. Bridge on the North end of the corridor. That gives you time to make a call on the CTAF frequency and get traffic advisories from the other aircraft in the corridor. I am wondering if the pilot switched straight from the TEB tower to the CTAF freq without going to EWR.
Another thing noted is that the helicopters usually operate lower in the corridor and this mishap happened right at the roof of that corridor.
FWIW this page takes you to :real time” (actually a 10 minute delay) of the traffic in the area. not much happening right now, but in the daytime...