FAA Proposes Firing Controllers in Fatal NYC Crash

November 16, 2009
Abram I. Bohrer

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Aviation Administration proposed firing an air traffic controller and supervisor on duty when a helicopter and airplane collided over the Hudson River in August, killing nine people.

The two are appealing and continue to be paid, and no final determination has been made, said Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman. Randy Babbitt, the Washington-based agency’s administrator, told reporters earlier today they were fired.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said the controller was on a personal telephone call and his supervisor wasn’t in the building, as required, when the accident occurred.

“The rules violated were operating procedures we expect employees to follow, period,” Babbitt said on a conference call. He declined further comment because of the safety board’s continuing investigation.

The Aug. 8 incident involved a Piper PA-32R-300 single- engine plane carrying three people and a Eurocopter AS 350 BA, operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours of New York, with six aboard. The FAA said today that it finished changes in altitude requirements and flying rules for small aircraft over the Hudson in the region to reduce collision risks.

Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, declined to comment.

The FAA said its rule changes, initially announced in September, take effect at 4 a.m. New York time on Nov. 19.