Kreindler Settles Cases for Families of Hudson River Mid-air Collision
- Kreindler represented the families of victims who lost their lives in a mid-air collision between a Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours, and a privately-operated Piper PA32 airplane.
- The Hudson River corridor can get very crowded, and the safety of the VFR airspace around New York has been a concern for a number of years and raises questions on issues regarding aircraft separation, traffic collision avoidance systems, training and ATC communications.
On Saturday, August 8, nine people were killed in a mid-air collision above New York’s Hudson River between a Eurocopter AS350 (N401LH) helicopter, operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours, and a Piper PA32 (N71MC) airplane operated by a private pilot. The death toll included five Italian tourists and a pilot from New Jersey in the helicopter, and three members of a Pennsylvania family were in the airplane.
Twenty seconds before the collision, the air traffic control radar system computer detected a conflict between the paths of the helicopter and the plane and set off an aural alarm and visual "conflict alert" for both the Teterboro and Newark tower controllers. The controllers made no attempt to issue a warning of the collision danger.
Following this aviation accident tragedy, partner Justin Green, a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot who holds commercial licenses in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, wrote the article “Assessing Duties of Pilots, Controllers After Collision Over the Hudson.” The article addresses the responsibilities of pilots and air traffic controllers and the rules for aircraft traversing the busy airspace around Manhattan.
In the Media
The crash occurred in the Hudson River VFR corridor, a small slice of airspace above the Hudson River in New York City where flight is permitted under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) below 1,100 feet. Under current rules, pilots may enter this area without any clearance from air traffic control and are expected to self-announce their entry into the corridor and to report checkpoints along the river on a designated radiofrequency. The corridor can become very crowded, especially on a clear summer day like the day of the tragedy.
The safety of the VFR airspace around New York has been a concern for a number of years. It received a lot of attention after the 2006 crash of Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle’s airplane into a Manhattan apartment building. At that time, the firm and others, including Senator Charles E. Schumer, called for new rules to be implemented to ensure the safety and security of the New York City area.
Any licensed pilot can legally fly the corridor, and no special training or experience is required.
The comments of the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman raise questions regarding air traffic control communications with the pilot of the airplane and whether there was a proper understanding by air traffic control of the pilot’s intention regarding entry into the airspace.
The Hudson River accident raised a number of aviation safety issues:
- The safety of on-demand flight operations, like sight-seeing helicopter tours.
- Aircraft separation - the FAA should establish new aircraft routes and altitudes that would separate tour helicopters and other aircraft transiting the area.
- Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems - commercial aircraft operating in the corridor should be required to have TCAS on board, which warns pilots of collision risks in time to avoid collisions.
- Training - pilots entering New York City airspace should fully understand the dangers associated with operating at a low altitude in a narrow area with significant traffic.
- Air Traffic Control communications, clearances and directions.
Kreindler Experience with Mid-Air and Tour Collisions
Kreindler partners have handled many cases involving tours, sight-seeing, private airplanes and mid-air crashes, including the Piper and de Havilland aircraft models.
- Kreindler partner and former Army pilot Brian Alexander represented victims of an Alaskan single-engine de Havilland Canada DHC-3 floatplane crash – the 2010 tragedy that killed former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.
- Kreindler partner Dan Rose is a former Navy pilot and is a licensed seaplane pilot. Mr. Rose along with partners Brian Alexander and U.S. Marine pilot Justin Green have handled many mid-air crash cases.
- Kreindler partners successfully represented victims of a tragic mid-air crash near Philadelphia.
Kreindler attorneys Brian Alexander, Justin Green and Dan Rose are former military pilots and each has extensive experience flying.
We wrote the book
Kreindler has literally written the book on aviation accident law. Our partners have authored numerous highly acclaimed books, articles and treatises, including the leading treatise in the aviation litigation field, Aviation Accident Law.
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler is one of the largest and most distinguished aviation accident law firms in the world. Since 1950, our attorneys have served as lead counsel in nearly every major commercial aviation disaster litigation. Our staff of attorneys includes four commercially licensed helicopter pilots and one former helicopter maintenance specialist (who is also a graduate of the NTSB Accident Investigation Course). The firm has successfully handled countless private, charter, military, general aviation and helicopter accident cases. Our partners have authored numerous highly acclaimed books, articles and treatises on aviation litigation, including the leading treatise in the field, Aviation Accident Law.