updated 9/2/2009 9:13:11 PM ET 2009-09-03T01:13:11

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it will change rules for the airspace over the Hudson River in New York City following last month's deadly midair crash of a small plane and a sightseeing helicopter.

Under the new rules, aircraft speeds would be restricted and pilots who fly between 1,000 and 1,300 feet — the altitude at which the Aug. 8 collision occurred — would be required to tune to the same radio frequency as pilots at lower altitudes.

The collision, involving a plane from Teterboro Airport, killed nine people — two men and a boy from a Pennsylvania family aboard the plane and five Italian tourists and a pilot aboard the helicopter. It focused attention on the crowded Hudson River corridor, which is used by numerous small aircraft.

Should be in place by Nov. 19
The rule changes were developed from a report completed by an FAA task force last week, the FAA said. They should be in place by Nov. 19.

The new safety steps incorporate the experiences of pilots who fly in the airspace, air traffic controllers and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said.

"We all want the skies over New York to be as safe as they can be," Babbitt said in a statement.

Among the changes:

  • Raising the floor for Class B airspace (airspace requiring air traffic control clearance to enter) over the river to 1,300 feet; currently the floor is as low as 1,100 feet in some parts.
  • Requiring aircraft flying between 1,000 and 1,300 feet to use the same radio frequency as aircraft flying below 1,000 feet.
  • Restricting aircraft to speeds of 140 knots or less.
  • Making mandatory the commonly used routes that take southbound aircraft down the river's west side and northbound craft up the east side
  • Requiring pilots to announce when they enter the area, report their locations, directions and altitudes and turn on anti-collision devices and landing lights
  • Requiring controllers at Teterboro to request approval from Newark Liberty Airport before a plane departs for Class B airspace over the river

Both aircraft in last month's collision were headed south down the river, with the helicopter climbing at the time, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report.

Babbitt said last month that better radio communications might have prevented the accident.

Schumer says changes ‘insufficient’
The investigation into the collision pitted the air traffic controllers' union against the NTSB after the board initially said a controller at Teterboro failed to warn the plane's pilot of the potential for a collision with several aircraft in its path, including the helicopter, before handing off responsibility for the plane to the Newark tower.

After the union disputed the finding, the board changed its statement to say that the tour helicopter wasn't one of the aircraft on the controller's radar screen until seven seconds after the handoff to Newark.

In an e-mail, an NTSB spokesman said Wednesday the board would not comment on the FAA's planned changes. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called them "insufficient."

"The FAA took a first step, but more has to be done," Schumer said in a statement issued Wednesday night. "Not to require flight plans nor have controllers in charge of airspace below 1,000 feet means that this plan is insufficient. We urge the FAA to go back to the drawing board and put in the necessary additions to keep the corridor safe."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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