I used to fly sightseeing helicopters around Manhattan in the mid-1980’s. The infamous Hudson River corridor existed back then, and there was plenty of traffic flowing up and downstream. Yes, I had my share of close-calls. I used to worry about getting hit from the rear, since the helicopters we were flying were among the slowest aircraft in that airspace. You kept your head on a swivel at all times if you wanted to live.
The recent mid-air collision between the sightseeing helicopter and the Piper airplane was horrible to hear about. Watching the video (we knew there’d be video of it, right?) was heart-wrenching. The young helicopter pilot who died in that accident, Jeremy Clarke, was only five or six years-old back when I was doing his job…for a different company of course.
There have been a lot of calls for tighter restrictions on that sliver of airspace. People say that it’s been an “accident waiting to happen.” If so, we’ve been waiting an awfully long time. Sightseeing tours around Manhattan have been done from the West 30th Street Heliport since the 1960’s. I guess if we wait long enough, every possible accident will occur. The overwhelming fear is that another mid-air will happen again, like…oh…tomorrow. And the knee-jerk reaction is that something must be done, of course.
Thinking back, there have been three general aviation mid-airs in the New York area. One occurred between a police helicopter and a seaplane - but that was over the East River, not in the Hudson River corridor. The two others occurred in what we used to call the “airport traffic area” (now Class D airspace) around Teterboro Airport. All of them happened more than 20 years ago. The question arises: If mid-airs happen in “controlled airspace” (and sadly, they still do), how on earth can we expect to completely prevent them in the future? More regulation does not seem to be the answer.
But I’ll betcha it’s coming.