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November 19, 2009 by USA Post 

“I am proud to have served on the FAA Task Force that developed these new procedures, which will make safe airspace, even safer”, said HAI President, Matt Zuccaro.  “The Federal Aviation Administration promised to have new safety rules, new charts, and a new training program in place by November 19 to make the airspace around New York City safer, and they did it.  I am very impressed.”

In fact, the final piece of this package of proposed changes, the “Final Rule” on the airspace modifications proposed by the FAA following the tragic August 8, 2009 midair collision of a tour helicopter and small airplane over the Hudson River, was published in the Federal Register Tuesday, November 17, two days ahead of schedule.  Zuccaro noted that the typical federal agency rulemaking process can take anywhere from 3 to 7 years to complete.  The FAA accomplished this one in about three months.

PowerPoint Presentation

Slide 1The proposed rule was based on the recommendations of a New York City Airspace Task Force, which included HAI, the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in addition to a wide range of subject matter experts from the FAA.

The final rule will enhance safety by separating lower-altitude, local aircraft flights over the Hudson River from flights transiting through the overlying corridor airspace at the higher altitudes.

“These changes will define separate corridors for aircraft operating locally and those flying along the Hudson River area,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Separating aircraft on different missions and improving pilot situational awareness will add more layers of safety to this high-demand airspace.”

Basically, the rule also now requires pilots to follow safety procedures that have been used, voluntarily, for the past 26 years.  “Make no mistake about it,” adds Zuccaro.  “The Hudson River corridor has been a safe and orderly place to fly, but by making the previous voluntary procedures mandatory, by segregating transient aircraft from aircraft conducting local operations, and adding uniformity to the airspace altitudes, we are making it even safer.”

Under the new rule, a Special Flight Rules Area is established over the Hudson and East Rivers, in which pilots must:

• Maintain a speed of 140 knots or less.
• Turn on anti-collision, aircraft position/navigation lights, and landing lights if equipped.
• Self-announce their position at mandatory reporting points on specific radio frequencies.
• Carry current charts for the airspace and be familiar with them.

In an exclusion zone below 1,300 feet over the Hudson River, pilots must announce their aircraft type, position, direction and altitude at charted mandatory reporting points and must stay along the New Jersey shoreline when southbound and along the Manhattan shoreline when northbound.  Pilots transiting the Hudson River must fly at an altitude between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet. Local flights will operate in the lower airspace below 1,000 feet.

The rule also incorporates the  provisions of an October 2006 Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that restricted fixed-wing aircraft in the exclusion zone over the East River to seaplanes landing or taking off on the river or those specifically approved by FAA air traffic control.

The effective date for the new rule is November 19, 2009.  Revised and updated versions of the three pilot charts that local fixed wing and helicopter pilots use for navigation will also be available on November 19, 2009.  The FAA intends to conduct seminars and coordinate with pilot groups to make pilots aware of the new requirements and has developed an online training program that covers flight operations in the New York area.

HAI has joined it affiliate organization, the ERHC and AOPA in promoting the new rule and  on-line training program that is designed to accompany it, to ensure that all pilots operating in the New York Airspace know what is expected of them.

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