There’s a view of the Manhattan skyline right here on the Hudson that is awesome in the genuine sense of the word. The riverwalk outside our complex draws throngs of visitors from neighboring communities and atop the Palisades every night, rain or shine. But after yet another air-related mishap literally in our backyard, I’m flinching even more than usual when I hear that familiar whir above me.
Take a look for yourself, either from Boulevard East or right along the water itself. Helicopters and small planes heading in all directions routinely come perilously close to one another just about every day.
Or watch a few videos I took of my son here and you’ll hear plane or helicopter engines in the background. I even comment about the noise on the soundtrack of several clips.
This after authorities vowed to become more vigilant of Manhattan-area air traffic following 9/11.
Which makes me wonder: Is he safe?
It wasn’t until this weekend that I discovered that there’s no traffic cop on the ground in touch with the freeway jam below 1,100 feet in the sky. To top it off, on average, 225 craft fly within that corridor EACH DAY.
Four years ago, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer insisted we close the Hudson River corridor for good. Each time I leave the windows open, or try to catch a breather at our pool, I wonder whether Schumer is dead-on.
This morning, I biked down to the Hoboken transit station, past thousands upon thousands of square feet of gorgeous parkland that continues to grow with each new project. How many people were out there on Saturday? There’s no telling. God forbid those craft had come down over land….
Add that to “Thank God for Sully” and you’ve got valid concerns that demand straightforward responses.
The federal Transportation Department’s inspector general warned last month that fatal accidents happen on flights of small, privately chartered aircraft — a category that includes helicopters — at 50 times the rate of commercial carriers.
“We came to the conclusion that it was the Wild West out there, totally unregulated, and no one knows where these pilots are,” Robert M. Gottheim, district manager for New York congressman Jerrold L. Nadler, told the New York Times.
“No one has a flight plan,” Nadler said. “It is so congested.”
Deborah A. P. Hersman, who heads the National Transportation Safety Board, said both pilots — of a 1976 Piper PA 32R-300, known as a Lance, as well as of the helicopter, a 1997 Eurocopter AS 350BA — were properly licensed.
Unlike commercial jetliners, neither of the craft was required to carry “black boxes” recording flight data and voice recordings from the cockpit. So no one will know exactly what happened.
After landing at Teterboro Airport about a half-hour earlier, the pilot of the small plane was cleared for takeoff around 11:50 a.m. Saturday and were elecronically “handed off” to controllers at Newark Airport. The plane cleared 1,000 feet over the river, but controllers told authorities they never heard from the pilot, putting him in a position to “see and avoid” trouble for himself.
It sounds amazing, but what apparently happened was that the plane entered the helicopter’s blind spot.
Rules governing “on demand” aviation — which ordinarily involve 30 or fewer passengers — haven’t been revised in more than three decades.
On Sunday, Schumer said: “The F.A.A., along with the N.T.S.B. and other relevant agencies, must take a long look at toughening up flight restrictions and monitoring of the Hudson River airspace in order to avoid another tragedy.”
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a licensed pilot who has flown over the Hudson River, admits changes aren’t a bad idea.
Doesn’t make me more comfortable, though. I’m beginning to get the same kind of creepy feeling as the guy who lives next to the airport.
Did I just hear a plane?
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