updated 10/12/2006 5:17:32 PM ET 2006-10-12T21:17:32

Guests: George Pataki, Jim Coyne, Rep. Peter King

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, and you are watching MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of a plane crash into a high-rise building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  And NBC News has learned that New York Yankee Cory Lidle was aboard the plane.  FAA records show the plane was registered to him.  This is a developing story, but officials say they have no reason to believe this was an act of terrorism. 

But the cause of the crash is pending right now.  We will bring to you all the news as it comes in throughout the night.  I had hoped, as many of you know, to bring you the 2006 HARDBALL College Tour tonight, our debut from Georgetown University with Robin Williams.  We will bring you that tomorrow night here at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 Eastern. 

Tonight, the White House said President Bush is aware of the plane crash.  He was informed within minutes by Homeland Security advisor Fran Townsend, and president counselor Dan Bartlett.  And a spokesperson said that White House is not commenting on the nature of the crash, not ruling anything in or out until we have all the facts.

Tom Costello is NBC News aviation correspondent.  Tom, we now know that Cory Lidle, the pitcher for the New York Yankees, was on the plane because his passport—rather his—was it is passport that was found on the ground?  Is that the evidence?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we do have some law enforcement authorities have told us that, but we have been working to confirm this from other sources, because we‘ve been hearing it.  He had purchased this plane, last summer. 

His application to own the plane, which is a formal process after the fact, licensing the plane in his name, that had been pending in his name.  That‘s a process that takes some time as they go through the FAA channels in Oklahoma City, but it does appear that this brand new pilot, Cory Lidle, having just earned his license in the off season last year, bought this plane, this Cirrus 20, we believe, for $187,000. 

This is a plane, Chris, that is actually a lot of fun for aviation enthusiasts.  It‘s a light plane and it‘s equipped a parachute.  Obviously, unfortunately, could never be used in today‘s incident but equipped with a parachute that literally pops out of the top of the plane should you lose power in air.  You could kill the propeller, and then, of course, drift down ever-so gently.  But that clearly did not happen today. 

For whatever reason, he was flying over Manhattan and ended up crashing into the north side of this apartment building.  And it took, as you know, some time for firefighters to get the fire out.  We understand two people on the ground dead, and two people, including Cory Lidle, in the plane dead.  That‘s the reporting we have at this moment.  We don‘t know yet who else might have been in the plane. 

The—it is, as we have been saying, it is required that if you fly over Manhattan, a very busy airspace, that you should be flying with the Air Traffic Control—contact with the Air Traffic Control and coordinating through them.  The initial indications were that Air Traffic Control wasn‘t in contact with this plane, and so at first wasn‘t quite sure who it was and what the flight plan was. 

It took nearly two hours to get that information based on the tail number.  And so we continue to try to figure out why that happened.  We may never know, of course, because it does appear that whoever was piloting the plane, and Mr. Lidle were killed.  And therefore we‘re not sure and may never know why this happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how close to Manhattan—to the skyline of Manhattan are you allowed to come as a private aviator? 

COSTELLO:  Yes, 1,000 feet above the tallest building is the rule.  If you are under visual flight rules, 1,000 feet above the tallest building but importantly, class B airspace, as we‘ve said, does not keep any general aviation pilot out of Manhattan. 

What it does say is that if you are flying over Manhattan, you absolutely have to be in touch with Air Traffic Control.  Quote, it says, reading from the FAA‘s requirements, “Arriving aircraft must obtain ATC clearance prior to entering class B airspace,” which is what Manhattan is.  It‘s such a busy place.  And so for whatever reason, it appears at this juncture that that did not happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Are there any peculiar atmospheric conditions when you are flying through the caverns of New York near skyscrapers?  Any downdrafts or anything that makes it different than open airspace? 

COSTELLO:  Well, keep in mind, he should not have been flying through the caverns of New York City.  He was supposed to be 1,000 feet above the tallest building.  So this—it appears to have been—at some point whether because it was because of mechanical problem or pilot error or whatever, there was clearly an error made that he was flying that low. 

The weather, according to the FAA, they say the wind was east-southeast at 13 knots, visibility was nine miles, ceiling 1,800 feet and overcast.  It was a bit soupy in New York City at that moment, but it was visual flight rules and not IFR, not instrument flight rules. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make so far of these scant reports, anecdotal perhaps, of people observing this plane that crashed into the building at 72nd Street having been engaging in some kind of aerial acrobatics? 

COSTELLO:  Yes, I specifically just asked one of our aviation experts off camera here, is this, in any way, the type of plane that you would do aerobatics with, and he said absolutely not.  And second of all, Mr. Lidle did not have many hours in the cockpit. 

If that report on the ground is true, then it does appear that whoever was controlling the aircraft was struggling to maintain control based on that initial report from the ground. 

But we always want to make sure that we emphasize that, of course, the early reports are very often inaccurate as it relates to aviation accidents.  Recall that immediately as soon as this crash occurred, the initial reports on the ground were that it was a helicopter, not a plane. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COSTELLO:  Then we started hearing it was a fixed wing and now we know exactly what type of a plane it was. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know what kind of a plane it is, and you noted a moment ago that it‘s equipped a parachute.  In what situations are allowed or does it work to open the parachute?  Do you have to be away from a building?  Could the pilot have been near Manhattan and used it, and hoped that they could drop the parachute and land on the island?  What would stop them from opening up the parachute? 

COSTELLO:  Yes, I must tell you, I have not flown this plane and I would hate to get into a detailed examination of how that parachute mechanism works.  From the initial reports on the ground, it does not sound as if this plane deployed the parachute.  It sounds like what happened is, for some reason, this plane flew into the side of a building. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, during 9/11, I was watching the horror itself as it occurred with Phil Griffin, who‘s now an executive in charge of this network and we were watching it together, trying to figure out why that plane, those huge planes, or any planes could have come this close to Manhattan. 

And my thinking at the time was no one would have done it by accident because the Hudson is so wide that you couldn‘t possibly accidentally cross the Hudson and hit a tall building, the tallest building in New York by accident.  But here we have a plane coming from the East River side, is that correct? 

COSTELLO:  Well, that‘s what it sounds like. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a narrower space.  It‘s possible.

COSTELLO:  Yes, that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  It seems more possible the plane could have ventured into that space from that angle on New York‘s main island that way. 

COSTELLO:  Yes, it does sound as if—and now we are simply trying to speculate, so we‘re going to preface the comments by saying it sounds or looks as if this pilot was moving up or down the East River. 

And, you know, it may be helpful at a point like this to show a map of Manhattan, because most of the country, keep in mind, watches from outside of Manhattan. 


COSTELLO:  But if you‘re looking at a map of Manhattan, you can come up or down the East River, which is right there to the right of the crash site.  So Manhattan is surrounded by the Hudson River on the left, the East River on the right.  It sounds, it looks as if—we preface this as speculation—it looks as if this plane was traveling up or down the East River and then, for some reason, turned into the apartment building. 

Ironically, Chris, the Yankees also lost a catcher back in 1979.  He was trying to fly an airplane.  He was practicing take-offs and landings, and he also died in a crash, not in Manhattan.

But of course, it was also back in—I believe it was in the 1930s when a plane crashed into the Empire State Building.  It was a military plane, a B-25, I believe.  I would have to go back and check the books on that.  But this has happened before, and, of course, you wonder how in the heck can you do that, but it has happened before. 

MATTHEWS:  When these planes get into areas where they don‘t have much maneuverability, like, obviously, in the skyline of Manhattan, is it harder to get the plane out of there? 

I mean, if you are a new pilot as the pitcher is, Cory Lidle is, from the Yankees, is it just harder to make those—it seems like if you‘re in an open space, you can make a lot of options, but if you are stuck with buildings all around, it‘s very hard to make quick turns if you find yourself in some sort of strange draft or some mechanical situation where you can‘t really have enough latitude to get away from the buildings. 

COSTELLO:  Yes, or disoriented or whatever the case may be.  I mean, obviously, Cory Lidle is familiar with New York City, having played for the Yankees, but I lived in New York City for seven or eight years—I‘m not a native, but I‘ll tell you, even I get confused. 

I would assume that, clearly, just the terrain can be confusing if you are in an airplane for the first time and you‘re new behind the controls.  You know, I‘m not sure that I, you know, with very minimal time in a cockpit would want to be flying over New York City.  But that‘s not to say that there‘s anything wrong with it.  It is legal as long as you follow the rules and as long as you are certified to fly as it appears he was. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking here about a small, private plane that crashed into an apartment building on 72nd Street.  That‘s on the Upper East side of New York on the island of Manhattan.  We‘re talking to Tom Costello of NBC.

Let me ask you, Tom, this plane apparently originally in Teterborough, New Jersey, across the Hudson River.  This building here sits on the East River, on the East Side of Manhattan. Does that tell you anything about how the plane could have gotten to this building and crashed into it?  We‘re looking at the flames from earlier today, late this afternoon, in fact. 

COSTELLO:  I hate to speculate, Chris.  I know that this plane hit the north side of the building.  And so one wonders how do you that?  Bring back up the map of New York City, and you‘ll understand why we‘re trying to figure out how this all came together.  Teterborough Airport sits over in New Jersey, way to the left-hand side of the map. 

If we bring that map up again. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s look at that map.  I‘ve taken it off here a number of times. 

COSTELLO:  Yes.  There you go. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s across the Hudson—it‘s not the best map in the world, but if you look down, you look at where it says “Crash Site” right  in the middle of the map there, and look over to the left, you‘ll see the island of Manhattan up and down, that‘s a narrow island up in the middle there and right in the very middle of the map.

And then you the left of that, and you see New Jersey.  And Teterborough on the Hudson...

COSTELLO:  Right where it says New Jersey. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a good spot.

COSTELLO:  That‘s—that‘s a great skyline—a top down look at Manhattan Island with New Jersey above it and Brooklyn below it there, and the long island of Long Island, which includes Brooklyn.  And then you see the crash site.

So somebody obviously had to be flying around Manhattan Island, Cory Lidle, to get on the other side of the island from where they took off, you know. 

COSTELLO:  That‘s why—I‘m not clear, how does one leave from New Jersey and then end up hitting this building coming from the north.  I mean, clearly he had to do some sort of a u-turn and who knows?  That‘s going to be what the NTSB and the FAA are going to try to determine over the course of this investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom, thank you for joining us in this effort to try to get the news up-to-date, and also try to project the news forward to what we might be finding out about how this bizarre, horrible accident occurred.  It‘s not as bad as the World Trade Center, but here it is, in the middle of Manhattan, the media center of the world, really.  And it‘s resounding around the world, and I‘m sure right now—let‘s go to our journalistic switch-hitter, a guy who can do sports as well as news, Keith Olbermann. 

Keith, tell me about Cory Lidle‘s end-of-year experience.  Was it a abd one or a good one?

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I don‘t think you would describe it as either.  It was kind of consistent, Chris, with the rest of his career.  He‘d been in the major leagues since 1997, and in the ensuing ten years, had played for seven different teams.  He traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the New York Yankees late in the season and helped them in their efforts to get into the post-season.  He pitched on Saturday afternoon and was at some point considered to be one of the starters in the Yankee playoff picture.  He pitched in relief in the last game of the season, and evidently had been flying, had gotten his license about seven months ago, and had recently obtained this plane. 

The Yankees, of course, as you‘ve mentioned, have an unfortunate history, one of the most tragic events in their history occurring 27 years ago now when their captain, this Thurmon Munson, who was also a private pilot, was taking off, practicing landings and take-offs at the airport, at Canton-Akron Airport in Ohio, crashed his plane, killed himself in that. 

And that seems to have occurred once again.  Lidle was a guy who pitched for a lot of teams pretty well over the course of his career.  He was not a superstar.  He was not a prominent player.  But obviously this building, and its proximity, and the baseball schedule, and the terror feel that this had initially, obviously that‘s been dismissed, all are in some sort of confluence right now because, not more than a few miles from the scene of this apparent accident, the New York Mets will be playing a baseball playoff game tonight.  And the question becomes, is that appropriate, especially considering that Cory Lidle began his major league with the New York Mets, not the New York Yankees.  So there are all sorts of additional factors. 

MATTHEWS:  So we‘re getting up to a Pete Rozelle moments, right? 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  As you allude, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the National Football League made the decision to go ahead and play all of their games that weekend.  And a couple of weeks later at another game, the decision made by the commissioner, Pete Rozelle, to go ahead and play anyway, a fan walked up to Pete Rozelle at Yankee Stadium during a New York Giants game, and said, are you Pete Rozelle.  And he said, yes.  And Rozelle was punched in the nose by the fan.  He said that‘s for playing when the president was lying in state.  And Rozelle, instead of getting the authorities, said to the man he was with, somebody I used to work with, said simply, I understand the way he feels, that was a horrible mistake on our part. 

The baseball, football, all the sports, tend to play through as many of these things as they possibly can.  And the issue, we understand, has now just been resolved completely independent of this, that the Mets-Cardinals number one playoff game tonight at Shea Stadium, which could be seen from the building into which this plane crashed.  That game has been canceled because of inclement weather, a bad weather forecast for thunderstorms tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s good.

OLBERMANN:  So we don‘t have that issue altogether. 

There is something about—and I think it may seem trivial, but unfortunately, to those of us who have covered baseball and sports, this sounds awfully familiar.  Baseball players in particular—off the top of my head, this was the fifth one I know of in the last 50 years who became a private pilot, and, at a minimum amount of experience, killed themselves in a fatal crash, dating back to a player named Tom Gastall in 1956 in Chesapeake Bay, a fellow with the Orioles, the most famous Thurmon Munson.  But people from Chicago, who remember the name of Ken Hubbs, who was the second baseman of the Cubs, killed himself in a plane crash in a snowstorm in Utah before the 1964 season. 

This seems to be an occasional disastrous consequence to a hobby that a lot of athletes get into.  So there‘s another aspect of that as well, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it al began with Knute Rockne, I guess famous athletes, sports figures getting killed in private planes, maybe because of the tendency of these people to be high-powered and we-got-to-get-there types, and they love the independence of flying. 

I want to go back to a touchy area, and that‘s Cory Lidle.  And that is the question.  He was one of the players the Phillies got rid of— expensive players—late in the season.  The irony, of course, was they finished so well, coming within a game or so of getting in the playoffs in the wildcard.  And yet, he was one of the players that was traded away in a way to save money, I guess, for the ownership.  And that last game, you don‘t feel that there was kind of a “no joy in Mudville” atmosphere around his life, having giving up three runs in the middle of that game, that fourth game in Detroit? 

OLBERMANN:  I did not know him well enough to leap into that level of speculation.  And it would be an extraordinary leap for someone who might have considered Cory Lidle their first best friend, and somebody like that would have the Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi, who went to high school with Cory Lidle.  They‘ve known each other for pushing 20 years, certainly.  And I imagine that would be really speculative for him. 

But if there was any sense that Cory Lidle was not—did not meet the average standards for emotional balance among athletes, I certainly never experienced it.  And I certainly—being traded or being on the losing end of an equation would—I don‘t think it would triggered something if the suspicion is...

MATTHEWS:  You know, I agree with you...

OLBERMANN:  ... is it possible that that was more than an accident.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.  I respect your news restraint here, you news judgment here.  Because it is a moment, I think, of great respect, a man‘s just lost his life. 


MATTHEWS:  Maybe it is too early to figure out what was in his mind or in his soul. 

It‘s just interesting.  I dug up a piece, Keith, just a day ago in the “New York Daily News” where they were quizzing him, a reporter, I guess a kind of rough reporter, asked him if he thought if he thought Joe Torre was going to be fired or not.  So clearly, there was that atmospheric around this guy, somebody—you know, the knives were out at the Yankees.  Somebody was going to get blamed, in fact, he said here, I don‘t get into reading articles, in other words, he wasn‘t going to speculate.  This was the man who just died this afternoon, being quizzed by a reporter about how bad the mood was in the Yankee front office and the dugout.  So it is  question I probably was wrong to raise, but it will be raised in...


OLBERMANN:  No, and I imagine—look I‘ve lived in that neighborhood.  I have lived in New York City for most of my life, and obviously in New York, when you see when you see a plane go into a building under any circumstances, you wonder how it‘s possible that it could have happened and what was the state of mind of the person who did it. 

But I think it‘s a fair question.  I‘m just saying, that to my experience, there was nothing, there was no red flag.  I mean, there are ball players you can look at and say, gee, I wonder, you know, what is their level of emotional stability.  I think Cory Lidle was a hard-working, veteran, journeyman kind of pitcher who certainly would not be so affected by the outcome of anything on a baseball field that it would have impaired his judgment or made him do something like this deliberately.  It strains credulity on that point, not to say that, again, who knows what‘s in someone else‘s heart or mind.  But I think it‘s a valid question, but I think the answer is, I can‘t imagine it being the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I think even as we speak the city editors at the “Daily News” and the “New York Post” and are sending out reporters right now to try to answer that question for the bulldog already. 

Let‘s go right no to Governor George Pataki.

Governor, thank you for joining us at this extreme moment here. 

Do you have any information about this tragedy, where this small plane crashed a building at 72nd Street on the Upper East Side?

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, ® NEW YORK:  Well, Chris, I think you‘ve been reporting it very accurately.  You know, there is now virtual certainty that this was nothing but a tragic accident, there was no link to terror.  You can‘t help when, if you‘re are a New Yorker since September 11th, or probably an American anywhere, when a plane hits a building, your first thought is, my God, are we being attacked again? 


PATAKI:  But we can be sure that that is not the case, and that this was in no way terror related. 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of a drill has this been for your people, I mean those in charge with homeland security and first responders?  Was this something of a drill, did they respond as you would expect you would expect them to in this kind of a situation? 

PATAKI:  Well, Chris, when people die, it‘s not a drill.  It‘s just tragic for those who died or were injured or suffered as a result of this.  But it was something where we were able to see, since September 11th, under very real, heightened concerns, how the cooperation and coordination would go forward.  And I have to say, it went extremely well.  We had instantaneous communication, the city, the state, the federal officials. I talked to Secretary Chertoff a number of times, and the mayor.  And whether it was the firefighters responding to the fire in the building or homeland security scrambling jets over New York, we have to say that there is a far better coordinated response than existed on September 11.

MATTHEWS:  Are the people of New York still jittery five years later?

PATAKI:  You can‘t help when something like this happens to think, oh my god, are we being attacked again?  So I don‘t think it‘s a question of New Yorkers being jittery, I think it‘s a question of all Americans when a plane hits a building, the first thought is going to be that we all have flashbacks to September 11th and wonder if we‘re being attacked again. 

And as I said, we can be 100 percent sure that wasn‘t the case with this terrible incident.  And we can take some comfort in how well the coordinated response was.  But Chris, I do say, we have to learn from this.  And one of the things that is most disturbing to me, you know. you go to Washington, the air space is enormously restricted. 

You can‘t fly a private plane near the Capitol or near the White House or over Washington, D.C.  The FAA and the homeland security have to take a hard look at the rules they follow in allowing aircraft into the air space over New York City.  This is the world‘s greatest city.  We have to take some serious steps to provide some greater restrictions on the use of this air space.

MATTHEWS:  You must imagine, I guess we‘ll know in the next couple of hours, what kind of communication Mr. Lidle was getting if he was at the helm there.  We assume he was, he was the pilot.  He was licensed to be the pilot. 

The question is, wasn‘t he getting really loud warnings from traffic control, get out of Manhattan, what are you doing near Manhattan, please respondrMD+DN_rMDNM_rMD+BO_rMDNM_?  It just strikes me as it did on 9/11, what would a plane be doing so close, so accidentally close to Manhattan, which is so—what‘s the right word?  It‘s so forbidding, so formidable to go near Manhattan.  It just strikes you, god, I‘m near Manhattan in a small plane, what am I doing here?

PATAKI:  Yes, I have exactly the same reaction you do.  How does a small plane have the real possibility of colliding with a high-rise building in New York?  Obviously they have to fly above a certain height and that was not the case with this horrible, horrible accident.  But the FAA and homeland security have to take a hard look.  And I know I‘m going to be working with the Port Authority to make some serious recommendations as to how we can make sure that the air space of New York is better protected than clearly it was today.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the long-term prospects for Manhattan?  I know we grew up with the glories of the sky scrapers, with the fountainhead and the joy we got from having the Empire State Building back in the ‘30s in the midst of the Great Depression.  It made us all proud.  Everybody wants to go to New York and look up at the buildings.  And I guess the question that comes to me as an out-of-towner is at what floor are you safe?  I mean, we‘re looking at the smoking aftermark of the fire at the 50th floor at 72nd Street.  How safe can you live at what height anymore?

PATAKI:  Well Chris, I think that‘s the wrong question.  We‘re New Yorkers, we‘re Americans.  We‘ve got to continue to build high and soar to new heights.  We can‘t say, oh my god, since September 11th, we have to cower and think small and live in bunkers.  And think about Oklahoma City.  You know, there the terrorist attack occurred from a truck and did its most devastation at the lowest floors.  So you can‘t because this horrible, horrible accident occurred today, start thinking that Americans and New Yorkers can‘t soar to the heights. 

We‘re going to build the Freedom Tower.  It‘s going to be 1,776 feet tall.  It‘s under construction right now, the tallest building ever built in America.  And I‘ll tell you, I‘d be comfortable working there.  I‘d be comfortable having my kids work there.  We cannot live in the shadow of fear simply because we are aware that we are in a different world since September 11th

MATTHEWS:  So we should continue to climb to the highest and go to 100 floors like the World Trade Center and the old windows on the world.  We shouldn‘t be constrained, even though it‘s much more difficult to contain a fire at that height?

PATAKI:  Absolutely.  We have to think big and we have to continue to build tall.  And the rest of the world is doing it and we can‘t say that as Americans for some reason we have reached our peak.  We haven‘t.  We are in a different world.  We do have to be aware of the security concerns.  The Freedom Tower is being built to the highest standards ever, safety standards ever of a domestic high-rise building.  And that‘s the prudent thing the do.  But the prudent thing is to build in redundancy and the best possible security standards, but not to live in fear or not to think small.

MATTHEWS:  Well hold on there governor.  Thank you very much, Governor George Pataki.  Stay with us if you can. 

We‘re going to join right now and watch Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of the city, at a press conference.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ®, NEW YORK:  Take the appropriate photographs and that nobody disturbs any of the evidence.  We have the senior chiefs from both the fire department and the police department and the senior people from OEM who have been doing their usual great job of coordinating everybody here. 

What we do know about the passengers is that one was a flight instructors and another one was a student pilot who we think had about 75 hours of experience.  That‘s basically what we know.  Anything else is speculation. 

We can‘t exactly tell what the route was after it came up the East River and why it had turned onto 72nd Street.  But that‘s what the NTSB will try to find out. 

The plane—it was a plane that‘s basically a composite plane, so most of the body did burn up.  The metal parts are basically in the street.  The engine was found on one of the floors.  But it‘s a pretty light plane. 

And so there was not a lot of damage done to the building. 

We just think we are very lucky that it was not anything more than two people, although our prayers go out to them.  I also want to say that in this day and age, obviously everybody is very sensitive when they hear something like a plane crashing into a building.  Homeland security, the NYPD and everybody else involved sees absolutely no evidence of anything relating to terrorism or anything else.

Why the plane was turned on to 72nd Street and hit the building, that‘s something that will be investigated.  But there is nothing to suggest that anything remotely like terrorism was involved.  I‘ll be happy to take a question or two.

QUESTION:  Mr. Mayor, do we know was the plane being piloted by...

BLOOMBERG:  We have absolutely no idea.  Two people are sitting next to each other, in a plane like this, either ones could have their hands on the controls and we don‘t know.

QUESTION:  Cory Lidle of the Yankees was on?

BLOOMBERG:  We do not release any names until we notify next of kin, which we have so far been unable to do.  Ms.?

QUESTION:  Mayor, how many apartments total were affected or hit by the plane?

BLOOMBERG:  Well, it‘s two floors, but apparently two floors, but apparently there were a number of apartments that were combined into at least one, perhaps two large apartments.  What is lucky is that there were not many people there.  And in the one location, whether it was part of the same apartment or not, the two people that were there, I did talk to them.  They were a little bit shaken up.  I think one stopped by the hospital just to be examined, but there was no injury whatsoever.  They said they were sitting there, they heard a noise, instantly glass breaking and metal coming in and they ran to the door, out into the hall, and that‘s all they could tell us.  Sir?

QUESTION:  Mayor, before it was determined this was not an act of terrorism.  Was there any consideration or was there any scrambling of the aircraft?

BLOOMBERG:  Not as far as I know.  It was obvious from the beginning it was a very small plane just from the size and the amount of damage done to the outside of the building.  So other than in this day and age you obviously think about that right away.  I think within minutes people were arriving on the scene.  The fire department and police department were probably reasonably confident that it was not.  Obviously you want to do an investigation before you make a final determination.  Sir?

QUESTION:  How would you rate the communication between the fire and police and the response, setting up command posts, stuff like that.

BLOOMBERG:  It‘s exactly what you would have expected.  It went perfectly according the plan.  Two proud agencies with great traditions and equipment and training, working side by side.  That‘s what the public has a right to expect and that‘s exactly what these agencies do.  The Office of Emergency Management has run drill after drill after drill and has sat with both to make sure that when we have to work together, we know what each person and each agency‘s responsibility is and they did what they were supposed to do.  Sir?

QUESTION:  Was the new system used?

BLOOMBERG:  Absolutely.  This is an aviation disaster.  And in those cases, you have a unified command.  And that‘s what happens.  You saw a police officer, a senior officer at the fire department site and a senior fire officer at the police department site and those were next to each other and they were working together for the entire time.  Sir?


BLOOMBERG:  No.  The things were—it was ascertained pretty quickly that this was unlikely to be anything more than what it appears to be, a small plane going into a mixed use building at the apartment floor level—sir. 

QUESTION:  Any information about Air Traffic Control, and did they lose track of this aircraft? 

BLOOMBERG:  Yes, I said from the beginning it took off from Teterboro at about 2:29, they have it on radar circling the Statue of Liberty and then heading up the East River.  They lost contact with at about the 59th Street Bridge going north.  If the plane had started to descend, that‘s exactly what you would expect.  Radar coverage only goes so low.  And after that, there is no radar track of how it got onto 72nd Street but the NTSB will have to figure that out—Miss.


BLOOMBERG:  It‘s up to the NTSB to find out if they will be able to determine that.  I don‘t know.  Then, in cases like this, there are witnesses who see a lot of things and if they are not corroborated, you really don‘t know—Sir.

QUESTION:  Can you tell us about any restrictions about small aircraft flying over Manhattan?

BLOOMBERG:  There are clear rules about what you can do.  You can‘t fly over Manhattan without a clearance.  You can fly up and down the Hudson River at 1,000 feet or below.  The East River there is an exclusion zone where you don‘t have to be radar controlled. 

Fundamentally from about 72nd, 59th Street Bridge, some place on Roosevelt Island South, whether it violated the airspace as it was going north, only the NTSB will have to know.  Yes, Miss?

QUESTION:  What was the actual name of the company that was overseeing the sightseeing?  Or was it a privately chartered?

BLOOMBERG:  As far as we can tell it was a privately owned plane. 

Yes, Sir?

QUESTION:  Was there any indication that there was radio communication between the airport and the aircraft?

BLOOMBERG:  I do not know at this time.  I‘d heard a rumor that there was but then nobody else could substantiate that.  In cases like this, you always have lots of conflicting things.  But the NTSB will do their usual customary, thorough search.  I‘m sure it will take some time.  And they will eventually issue a report that will give every bit of information they were able to ascertain.  Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you describe the police and fire response to this emergency?

BLOOMBERG:  Well, massive and quick and coordinated I think is a good way to phrase it.  Everybody was able to get their equipment through traffic here.  Response time was very fast and they were all able to get their equipment into place. 

Fire department got lines pretty quickly up on the two floors to knock down the fire.  Police department had control of the whole area.  Together they went to every apartment and knocked on the door and helped anybody out.  Miss?

QUESTION:  Mayor, what does this say about the security of New York City‘s airspace?

BLOOMBERG:  Well, this is—I don‘t think this has anything to do with the security of New York City‘s airspace.  Small planes are allowed to fly sightseeing up and down the rivers, and that‘s the FAA‘s decision and sadly an accident like this cost two people their lives.  But I don‘t know that there‘s any greater significance.  Miss?

QUESTION:  Mayor, you mentioned a 911 phone call.  Do we know who made the phone call and at what point?

BLOOMBERG:  At this point we do not or I do not.  Sir?

QUESTION:  Do you have any reports of communication problems with telephones or radios with the fire department or police?

BLOOMBERG:  No, none whatsoever.  And keep in mind they also were basically standing next to each other.  So this was not a problem of using radios.  They were standing together working together at both command places so that they could work together.  Yes, Miss?


BLOOMBERG:  A small plane like this would be very unlikely to have a flight recorder.  That‘s only for bigger planes so they would not.  Yes, sir, behind you?


BLOOMBERG:  Well, there‘s just such different magnitude things.  I don‘t know that there‘s any meaningful comparison.  I can tell you this, everything that we planned to handle an emergency like this was carried out to the book exactly the ways that we had wanted to go.  Last question, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Mayor, when you first heard a plane hit a building, what was the first thing that went through your head?

BLOOMBERG:  I saw on a computer screen a small plane had hit a building, and right away looked for the messages coming out of the Office of Emergency Management which did confirm it was a small plane.  And then they have professionals, the P.D. and the FDNY know how to respond. 

The OEM knows how to provide the coordination that everybody needs.  And I did not worry that we wouldn‘t be able to handle this at all.  I‘m very proud of the way everybody responded.  I thank God it was nothing more serious. 

So let me recap.  A small plane takes off from Teterboro at 2:30, circles the Statue of Liberty, heads up the East River—as far as we can tell at that point had not violated any Air Traffic Control rules as to where planes can fly.  Air Traffic Control lost radar contact with the plane heading north at about the 59th Street Bridge. 

At 2:42, a 911 call came in reporting the crash.  Fire and police responded.  OEM responded and everybody worked together.  The fire was knocked down quickly.  Eleven firefighters treated for minor injuries.  A couple of civilians refused medical attention. 

Two people that I talked to were in one of the apartments when at least a piece of metal—I don‘t know how much—came through their window.  They ran out of the apartment and we evacuated the building.  And now the building is being reoccupied.  And the NTSB is on site and the police department has secured the area after the fire marshals had made sure that they‘d recovered any bodies. 

There were no bodies found in the building.  The only two bodies were found on the street.  And obviously when the plane hit, part of it went into the building, but the rest of it probably just fell straight down.  And it‘s very tragic, but that‘s what it is. 

I think we have to say a little prayer for those we lost.  Two human beings‘ lives were snuffed out.  But we also should say a prayer to say thank you that it wasn‘t anything more serious than this.  And that‘s OK—you‘re ... 

QUESTION:  The people that were in the apartment where the metal came through, were they a couple or ...

BLOOMBERG:  They were two people, a man and a woman. 

QUESTION:  A man and a woman.  Do you know what came through, a wing or?

BLOOMBERG:  No, I don‘t think there were any big pieces.  There were no big pieces of rubble found and the engine block was in the apartment but that‘s it.  And I don‘t know that it was on the same floor.  That‘s it.  So I think, thank you very much is the answer, we‘ve been over it.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, in something of a tour de force in terms of informing the public.  So much detail coming from the mayor. 

Let‘s go to Tom Costello of NBC.  That was quite an impressive display of know-how by the mayor of New York, and the way we like to see big city mayors, on the street corner, giving us the info as they get it. 

But we have more info.  We do have, at NBC, the knowledge that one of the two people that are dead right now is Cory Lidle, the former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and now just recently with the Yankees.  And do we know who the other person is? 

COSTELLO:  I don‘t know who the other person is, but I thought it was very interesting what he said.  He said that essentially if you fly, and this was—while he was speaking we were confirming those exact facts through our other FAA and aviation sources. 

New York is a different animal when it comes to the rules you can fly under when you‘re there in terms of general VFR rules.  You can fly up the Hudson River, but you must be at least 1,000 feet—pardon me.  Let me get that right, again.  Let me repeat that.  You have to be at 700 to 1,100 feet on the Hudson River. 

On the east side you must be below 700 feet for VFR, which is what he was flying under.  Therefore, if he was on that corridor or in those two areas, he could fly without contacting Air Traffic Control.  But the minute he flew over, obviously, at that point he was in trouble.  But the minute you fly over Manhattan, you must be in touch with Air Traffic Control. 

So we have a better sense of what happened now.  Teterboro Airport off to the left is where he took off from.  He headed south, he circled the Empire State Building, went up the East River, and then they lost contact with him at the 59th Street Bridge and then he made a left turn, it appears, onto 72nd Street and crashed right into that building. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s a fair airspace that he could follow going south to north on the East River. 

COSTELLO:  As long as he maintains that he‘s below 700 feet is what our understanding is, at this point, that he could be in that airspace.  However, one of my colleagues at NBC who holds a general aviation license said, you know, a lot of us would love to fly up and around and circle Manhattan Island but we don‘t dare just because it takes a little fortitude to take a general aviation plane in that airspace. 

But legally he can legally fly up the East River as long as he maintains those restrictions.  But, obviously, at the 59th Street Bridge something was going wrong because that‘s where they lost contact with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Help me with that, Tom.  What do you mean by it takes a little fortitude to fly a plane along the skyline of New York even though it‘s legal? 

COSTELLO:  Well, I just mean it takes some guts, I would think if you don‘t have a lot of time in a cockpit to fly around Manhattan given how convoluted, given how busy that airspace is there. 

MATTHEWS:  I see. 

COSTELLO:  But what we know about Cory Lidle is that he had been—he had just earned his pilot‘s license in the last year, he had just bought this pilot—rather, this plane, for about $187,000 over the summer.  In fact, his registration was still pending with the FAA which is a normal procedure, but he did not many hours in the cockpit, as he had just earned his license. 

And it was interesting.  The mayor said that, in fact, rather than four people on board, only two were killed.  Let me make that clear.  Only two people killed, not four people killed as we had originally believed, and that it was the instructor and a pilot he said, a student with not too many hours in the cockpit.  So it does appear that both deaths occurred in the plane itself.

MATTHEWS:  And the instructor, of course, based upon obvious deduction here was a woman?

COSTELLO:  I don‘t know that.

MATTHEWS:  And the mayor in his press conference a few moments ago said the two victims, one was a male and one was a female.

COSTELLO:  OK, I missed that, so I‘m glad you picked up on it.  But that would appear...

MATTHEWS:  ... I‘m wrong on that?  I may be wrong on that.  We‘ll see. 

We‘re trying to develop this story as it goes on here.

COSTELLO:  Flight instructor and a pilot with 75 hours, student pilot with 75 hours of experience is how the mayor described it at one point.  And so that would be in keeping with, we believe, with the number of hours that Cory Lidle had in the cockpit.

But now that we‘ve—now tried thankfully the mayor has put all this into perspective and given us a sense of the route.  Because we were completely confounded by how he could end up where he was.  And now it appears that he went down the Hudson River or down the coast of New Jersey along the river and he did circle the Statue of Liberty and then made his way up the East River, lost contact with ATC at the 59th Street Bridge and somehow, something went tragically wrong and around 77nd Street, he made a left turn, flying of course, and crashed into that apartment building.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s of course the route of the long-serving Wilson Line in New York, where you can travel around the city in a boat.  And he was doing it in a plane.  Of course, the latest news, I‘m giving it to you right now, we all are as it comes across.  The “Associated Press” has reported that the medical examiner‘s office in New York now says just two people have died in a Manhattan plane crash, not four.

Tom, hold on there.  Let‘s go right now to Governor George Pataki.  We‘re rejoining him right now.  Governor Pataki, any response to what you have heard from Mayor Bloomberg or from Tom Costello or the others or any news you might have on this tragedy on the Upper East Side?

PATAKI:  Well Chris, I think the mayor said it all.  There is some other information, but it will be revealed at the appropriate time.  But I think all the material facts are out there. 

The one thing I would add again as you were just going over some of the convoluted rules about flying up the Hudson River or down the Hudson River, up the East River.  And I think we just have to do more to make sure that we don‘t have people with limited flight experience just circling Manhattan and putting this great city at risk.  And I certainly am going to be calling on the FAA to tighten up their rules and their restrictions on airspace over New York.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Governor George Pataki of the state of New York.  Thank you sir for joining us right now.

We‘re going to go right now to David Shuster, who‘s been sitting tentatively here and patiently.  What more—you‘ve been studying this for the last couple of minutes—in fact, couple of hours now.  David?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, a couple of things that strike me.  First of all, there you heard the mayor, Mayor Bloomberg trying to downplay the suggestion this was just a small plane.  He was asked specifically at the news conference about security of New York.  And unlike what you just heard with the governor, expressing some concerns about people flying around New York.

The mayor seemed to have no concern, saying this was not a security issue, this was just a matter of a particular plane that for whatever reason went off-course and crashed. 

But the other thing that was so intriguing, Chris, is when you go back over the details and how—there you are, you‘re looking at the Cirrus SR-20 and a couple of sort of interesting factoids about that plane, as Tom Costello pointed out.

This is a plane that has the most advanced aviatics possible for a plane of this size.  It‘s got the Cirrus air frame parachute system.  This is a parachute that can come out in case the pilot has problems and the plane can simply float down.

There‘s also something called the terrain awareness warning system, or TAWS, which is to try to keep a pilot clear of any terrain and obstacles.  So clearly for the instructor of this plane, at least, who presumably had plenty of experience, there were all the resources in the cockpit to sort of guide them away from a dangerous situation, which may go to the idea that either there was a fuel problem, or some sort of aviatics problem that hit them suddenly.

But the other thing, Chris, to sort of point out, is that this is not just a news story and perhaps just a New York story, a local story.  But it‘s also, as Keith Olbermann pointed out, now a sports story.  For Yankee fans who are 30-years-old or older, Yankees fans remember that Thurman Munson, the captain of the Yankees, died when he was trying to practice take-offs and landings near Canton, Ohio, 27 years ago.

So it‘s just sort of a weird experience perhaps for New York sports fans to remember that.  And so dramatically now, here at the end of the Yankee season, to find out that one of their pitchers, Cory Lidle is also involved in a crash.

MATTHEWS:  We now know—I just heard that we heard that there was a distress call, a may-day call right before the tragedy of that plane hitting that building, we‘re just looking at it right then.  We know that of course that the plane had orientation ability to know how close it was to a building.  We know that it‘s a light plane with a parachute that apparently couldn‘t be used in this terrible moment when this crash occurred.  I guess the question, when you‘re looking at a plane that light, is a plane that light likely to get blown around and now it‘s apparently worse than that?  Something was wrong with the plane, something mechanically was wrong with this plane, apparently.  They were in trouble.

SHUSTER:  Right.  They were in trouble because if you also look at what side of the building the plane struck, it struck the north side of the building, which is on the east side of Manhattan.  And we know based on what Mayor Bloomberg just said, they were coming from New Jersey.  They went south to the Statue of Liberty.  They then came up the East River.  The plane at some point had to have either spun back around, headed back south in a moment of distress and hit the building on the north side or perhaps it went vertically down and plunged to the building on the north side.  But in any case...

MATTHEWS:  All right, let‘s get a lot more information with the National Transportation Safety Board.  He‘s the press conference right now.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, NTSB:  Good afternoon, I am Debbie Hersman, a board member with the National Transportation Safety Board.  I‘m accompanied by Ms. Lorenda Ward (ph), who‘s our investigator in charge for this accident.  As you know, the NTSB is charged with investigating all civil aviation accidents in the United States. 

Shortly after the accident we organized a go team to launch the accident in New York City.  We already have two regional investigators from our Parsippany office who are on the scene.  We have an investigator on the 40th floor right now.

We have 10 people who are going to be departing here from Washington, D.C. from our headquarters.  We are investigating the crash of a Cirrus SR-20, VIN number 929 Charlie delta.  Cirrus SR-20 crashed into a high rise building this afternoon.  According to the FAA‘s Web site, the aircraft has a registration pending to Mr. Cory Lidle.  The on scene investigation is a fact-gathering exercise. 

We will be working with the emergency responders on scene, the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft and the engine manufacturer when we arrive on scene.  We are still gathering facts and we‘re working with other authorities who have additional information.  When we have additional facts that we can share with you, we will hold briefings.  We will begin our work this evening in New York City. 

QUESTION:  To your knowledge, was there any distress call made by the pilot?

HERSMAN:  I don‘t have information about that at this time. 

QUESTION:  Do you have information about fatalities Debbie, on the ground?

HERSMAN:  We‘re still awaiting confirmation of any fatalities.  We‘d like to get on scene, we need to work with the local authorities to establish that information.

QUESTION:  What do you know about the safety record of this—

HERSMAN:  The question was about the safety record of this aircraft.  We investigate each accident as an individual event.  We‘re going to be looking at the circumstances of this accident and determine what happened in this case.  This is a fairly new aircraft, a single engine.  We have investigated other accidents involving this aircraft.  That information is available on our Web site as I mentioned.  We are charged with investigating all civil aviation accidents in this country. 

QUESTION:  How many members on your team? Can you tell us, you know, just the make-up of the team and how things are going to go when you arrive in New York?

HERSMAN:  We‘re relying on our two regional investigators who are from our Parsippany office that are in New York right now.  They‘ve staked down the scene, they‘re working with the local officials and we have six investigators from our Washington office who are going to be departing shortly.  They‘re going to be looking at power plants, systems, structures, operations, we‘ll be gathering maintenance records. 

We‘ll be working with the FAA to get air traffic control information, radar data.  We conduct very comprehensive investigations.  We will be looking at all of the factors and it‘s a fact-gathering exercise.  Thank you all very much and I‘ll see you in New York City. 

QUESTION:  Are you leaving right away?

HERSMAN:  We will be leaving in a few minutes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well that was an official—the National Transportation Safety Board, since this is a federal aviation matter.  They‘re going to try to figure out what caused this.  That was the spokesman, the official leaving from Washington.

So they‘re going to get a report pretty quick, I expect?

SHUSTER:  Yes, I mean, this is a standard rule procedure.  There‘s a NTSB go team as they call it that is always on duty in case of an airline or commuter accident anywhere in the country.  So what they‘ve done now Chris is they‘ve activated the go team.  In this case, they‘ve decided to send some of the regional investigators into New York City. 

But again, part of what may be guiding the NTSB and their go team in the scope and the size may simply be because this was not a big commercial airliner.  This was a small commuter aircraft.  And Chris again, what‘s so striking about it is when you heard Mayor Bloomberg a few minutes ago, he seems to suggest really this is just sort of a small deal, that the plane hit the building, only the engine stayed inside the building.  The rest of the plane fell to the ground.

And even a man and a woman who were either in the apartment or an apartment that was adjacent, they heard the glass crashing and they simply ran to their door and ran out in the hallway. So the fact that nobody inside the building was hurt and the only fatalities were the people on board this aircraft suggests that, yes, this was a small plane, and that right from the beginning, at least according to Mayor Bloomberg, they knew from the beginning this was a minor matter even though those pictures, of course, any time there‘s a building on fire in New York City, you think the worst. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right to now to U.S. Congressman Peter King of New York. 

Peter—Congressman, thank you for joining us.  I heard you on earlier this afternoon.  I guess it‘s an open and shut case if you listen to the mayor.  Someone went off-course from a course they were allowing to be on, flying up the East River. 

They made a mistake, or there was an engine problem, a mechanical failure.  Two people were killed, including Cory Lidle, the former pitcher for the Phillies, now with the Yankees.  That‘s about it.  There‘s not more to it in terms of oversight legislation or anything like that.  Is that how you see it?

REP. PETER KING, ® N.Y.:  Yes.  I‘ve spoken to Secretary Chertoff, my committee has been in touch with the various intelligence agencies and the people on the ground.  Right now, clearly, it was an attack—I mean, this was clearly an accident.  This was not an attack.  It was an accident.  As we know, it was Cory Lidle who was in the plane.  He was the pilot of the plane. 

But again, when something like this happens, you have to—you can‘t rule out terrorism.  You have to suspect terrorism and work back from there.  But the fact is, this clearly was an accident.  And, I mean, it‘s encouraging to hear that.  It‘s terrible that people were killed.  It‘s an absolute tragedy. 

But on the other hand, this perhaps can be a warning to us that—I think we have to look into whether or not there should be more restrictions on airspace around Manhattan.  Just 30 blocks downtown was the United Nations building.  We‘re going to have the new buildings be constructed at the World Trade Center site.  There‘s so many locations right along the East River and the Hudson River, that I think we have to very seriously look at whether there should be more restrictions on the airspace. 

MATTHEWS:  Was there a scrambling of U.S. aircraft, combat aircraft in the wake of this accident, Congressman?

KING:  My understanding is that there was, that there was scrambling of aircraft.  And again, if there is anything good that comes out of this, or any good news, is that from what we know so far, all of the various departments in the government and the various levels of government responded in the right way, whether it was NORAD, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the NYPD, Department of Homeland Security, the FDNY, the intelligence agencies in Washington, everyone appears to have done the right thing. 

Now obviously, there will have to be after action reports.  We‘ll have to find out what did go right, what did go wrong, but so far it looks—in contrast to September 11th, where there was, you know, a lot of confusion at the start with no real battle plan as to what should be done, this time around it appears that everything, from what we know, has been done, if not entirely the right way, certainly pretty much the right way. 

MATTHEWS:  For those joining us right now, we advertised for days now that we were going to have a town meeting at Georgetown University featuring Robin Williams.  And I must say, I look forward that joy of bringing that to you.  We‘ll be bringing that to you tomorrow night.  Because of this tragedy, we‘ve had to put it off for a day.  But I do urge you to come back tomorrow night and watch one of our more—I must say, even in the face of this tragedy, one of our joyous occasions on HARDBALL. 

Let me ask you, Congressman King, I guess when you said we have to assume the worst, we have to operate as if terrorism has struck, when we see a situation like this.  And then you backed it, I think rather cogently, by saying yes, in fact the scrambling of jets, of combat jets, is in fact the regular drill in these cases. 

KING:  It really is, because, again, you know, the first reports were this was a small plane, it turned out to be true, it turned out to be a commuter plane.  But, again, this could have been a diversionary attack, it could have been the first step.  We have to look to see if there was any chatter, any rumors in the past several days or any reports, even abstract reports which now would make if this was part of an attack.

Again, this is just the way our lives have changed since September 11.  I have no doubt that, for instance, when the police went there—under the New York‘s system, the NYPD is in charge so long as it‘s considered to be possibly a terrorist attack.  So I‘m sure that the first people on the scene, that the police were in charge until terrorism was ruled out. 

So we have to assume that there‘s a possibility of terrorism and work ourselves back.  We can‘t panic.  We can‘t go crazy over this, but at the same time, we realize we are up against a very, very deadly enemy, which could be attacking us in, you know, many ways at different times. 

And when something like this happens in Manhattan—you know, I‘m thinking back, other than the crash into the Empire State Buildings back in the 1940s and the helicopter crash in the Pan Am Building in the landing pad, I‘m not aware of any other commuter planes crashing into Manhattan.  So this not, this is certainly the norm.  In fact its‘s, you know, maybe one plane in the last 60 years that this has happened.  So when you hear it, your first instinct has to be, this could be terror.  But it‘s not.  It‘s not terror.

MATTHEWS:  You know, you know as you fly back and forth to New York and Washington every week, Congressman, more often in fact, there is something so stunning about the sight of Manhattan Island, even with the amputation of the two World Trade Towers, that it seems like anybody in a private plane would almost physically pull away at the idea at the idea of getting anywhere near it, it‘s such a powerful bit of architecture and cityscape. 

I agree, I just think this is not an accident for all these years that we haven‘t had these accidents.  It seems like it requires something very strange to get a plane that close, and certainly in this case, of banging into one of the buildings, high-rise buildings of New York. 

Congressman King, thank you very much for joining us here on MSNBC. 

KING:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to a guy who knows a lot about this, former U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania, Jim Coyne.  I knew him back when he was a Congressman.  He‘s now president of the National Air Transportation Association. 

Congressman, Mr. King—Mr. Coyne, rather, let me ask you this.  As I understand it from our pre-interview with you, that you say that it was quite legal, as we‘ve heard before, to fly a small plane up the East River, as this plane was being flown by Cory Lidle. 

JIM COYNE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATION:  Well, yes.  There‘s a lot of misinformation about that earlier in the day, but I think, of course, Mayor Bloomberg straightened most people out.  There is a very legal, but very small and very difficult airspace on the East River.

There‘s also another one on the West River.  The West River‘s relatively straightforward because you can start at the north and just go all the way straight down and continue on out the south.  So you see a lot of pilots coming up or down the Hudson River, staying below 700 or 1000 feet, something like that, and going by the Statue of Liberty. 

On the East River, however, it‘s kind of a dead end.  You can only go up to about 75th Street, right where the accident was, and at about that location, the legal airspace ends, because of the proximity of La Guardia Airport just a mile or so north of there.  And so anybody who flies up that legal VFR corridor, along the East River has to make a u-turn. 

Now, most of the aircraft that use that corridor are commercial aircraft, helicopters especially.  And it‘s very easy for them to make a u-turn, as you know, helicopters are very, very mobile, but a fixed-wing aircraft, like the Cirrus needs more space to make a u-turn.  Most of the fixed-wing airplanes that come into that corridor are commercial planes, sea planes, that are coming in to land at the Wall Street Sea Port.  And... 

MATTHEWS:  Why in the world would someone who is teaching someone how to fly a plane take them into Manhattan Island airspace? 

COYNE:  Well, a lot of people do it because it‘s a spectacular vista.  It‘s just like somebody on a boat wanting to come along the Hudson River and see the skyline, and especially to fly around the Statue of Liberty. 

The East River, though, is a much more problematic question in my mind, because I‘m not aware of too many private pilots, frankly, who have ever had any desire to fly up the East River.  The only thing that comes across my mind, of course, is that in this particular case, we had somebody who had a relationship with Yankee Stadium, and maybe there was a desire to go up and see Yankee Stadium. 

But it is a tricky place to fly, because you have got to make a u-turn.  And out in the West, we have this problem with what box canyons, where people come into a canyon and find out that they don‘t have enough space to make a u-turn. 

Here we didn‘t have a literally have a canyon because there‘s obviously a fair amount of open space on the Brooklyn side, but, nevertheless, it‘s a sort of man-made airspace canyon, to have to make a u-turn in.  And it‘s tough for sometimes a young pilot to know how to make those u-turns and control the airplane in what is typically a difficult maneuver. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree that it‘s spectacular, a five-ticket ride, if you will, but do you think it‘s appropriate to use the East River as a training area? 

COYNE:  Certainly not.  No.  And in fact, I think we discourage training in that area.  And I‘m not sure this was being done as a training experience.  We haven‘t seen evidence to suggest that. 

In fact, we have just been recently working with the folks at Teterborough Airport to discourage training, flight training altogether at Teterborough Airport.  So we recognize that Manhattan is not the right place to be doing instructional flying.  And I don‘t know if that was the case in this case.  But if it was, it was probably something that shouldn‘t be permitted in the future. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think it is, Mr. Coyne, Jim, that has led so much of American history and famous people, sports figures, so many of them have been killed in general aviation?  What is it?

COYNE:  Well, I think it‘s a function of people who are very, very busy, and they get to a point in their lives where their free time is so limited.  And so they want to maximize their use of their free time, so they find that really worth the time to learn how to fly because they get more out of a weekend. 

For example, instead of just a two day weekend, where they spend most of the time in traffic, they can get someplace and get a lot done in a weekend.  And so people who are typically more famous or more successful have a limited amount of time, they want to use it as best they can.  And a plane helps them do that.

MATTHEWS:  As I said, it started with Newt Rockney and Will Rogers and John Tower and so many people.  But thank you very much for coming on tonight in a very important night for this country in terms of private aviation and the memories of course, stirred now to 9/11.  We‘ll go now to Tucker Carlson.  As I said, tomorrow night, we‘re going to have Robin Williams in that long-promised, spectacular show, much more joyous than what you‘re watching, I must say.  A real relief from what you‘re watching right now.  Robin Williams coming to the debut of the 2006 “HARDBALL College Tour” from Georgetown University.  Right now we‘re going to Tucker Carlson on “TUCKER.”  Let‘s go to “TUCKER.”



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