Who was responsible for the Hudson River disaster?

LA to correspondent, who is a private pilot:
Lot of information here about the Teterboro Airport air traffic controller’s social phone conversation in the minutes leading up to the airplane-helicopter crash over the Hudson, but utter confusion about what are the basic rules. Apparently it is not against rules for controllers to engage in social phone calls while they’re on duty.

Correspondent replies:

The scenario surrounding these VFR flights (visual flight rules) is based on the air traffic controllers (ATC) being there in an ADVISORY capacity only, and even that only when requested (we call it “asking for flight following”). This contrasts sharply with IFR flights (instrument flight rules) where ATC’s primary (and pretty much only) role is TRAFFIC COLLISION AVOIDANCE.

Under VFR, the impetus is on the pilot to “see and avoid.” This of course does not mean that ATC should not alert people to dangerous situations but are they OBLIGATED to do so? This is a pretty vague area. Remember one more thing, scary as this may sound (and it probably does not apply to the NYC area since this area is considered a Class B restricted airspace), that VFR pilots are not even obligated to speak to anyone, in certain cases we do not even have to have radios!!

See the part of the article where they try to raise the Piper pilot on the frequency—he does not respond, so he may in fact not have heard the Teterboro controller correctly when he was asked to switch to Newark.

Having flown in these crowded airspaces for years I can tell you that it is a sobering experience, even under IFR flight rules. Due to the amount of traffic in the areas, controller advisories (turn to this heading, watch for this traffic, change frequency, climb/descend etc) come at you very rapidly and it is TOTALLY INTIMIDATING when you are not used to it.

So whereas I sympathize with the crash victims and their families of course, and can easily criticize the controllers (they did try to reach the Piper pilot and could not get to him), I must say that I blame the pilots of both craft for the end result.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 20, 2009 10:23 AM | Send

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