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EDITOR’S LETTER
From the Editor’s Desk
Tragedy on the Hudson
The mid air collision between a Part 135 tour operator’s AS-350 Astar and a small
single engine airplane over the Hudson River was a tremendous tragedy I am sure we
can all agree. Seemingly minutes after, the media was “on the job” to “inform the
public,” provide up to minute “facts” surrounding the event and to speculate as to the
cause of the accident. Problem #1. In an effort to get to the story first the media
forgot one important element of the reporting process; get your facts straight. Prob-
lem #2. The media, too quickly, enlisted the assistance of several “expert” witnesses
to provide their input and provide insight to the story. Each time I saw another
“expert” comment “live” caused me to cringe. These people were not experts. For
Ron Whitney
the most part they were not helicopter pilots, nor had they ever actually flown in the airspace in
Managing Editor
which the incident occurred. All they managed to do was direct public opinion in a negative di-
rection. There is no question that the public has a right to know, the right to know if there is a haz-
ard, a danger. But the media has an obligation to do this in a responsible manner. They did not.
Shortly after these stories aired the politicians came running, in droves. They too had no business
commenting, short of the facts, until the NTSB and FAA had an opportunity to discover the actual
cause of the accident.
I had the experience of flying in this specific area several years ago while performing waterway
surveillance and water sampling flights for the EPA. Each day our route took us through the Class
B triangle of Newark, La Guardia, and Kennedy as well as along the Hudson River, East River, and
New York Harbor. This is congested airspace to be sure. Congested, but quite manageable. For
the one thing you will quickly learn is that the pilots who operate in this airspace are true profes-
sionals who will be quick to advise should you stray from the accepted procedures. There is no sub-
stitute for training and experience. The tour operators in the New York area, as well as the Part 91
and Part 135 Corporate operators go to great lengths to insure their crews operate in a safe, pro-
fessional and compliant fashion.
Shortly after the incident the FAA’s Randy Babbitt directed a review of the airspace and pro-
cedures. Gathering the local experts, operators, industry and association representatives the FAA
went about affecting reasonable changes. The result is now well along the process of becoming reg-
ulatory. The manner and speed at which this has been accomplished is impressive and the FAA
should be commended.
Just my opinion,
Ron Whitney
Managing Editor
4 ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL • September 2009
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