A loophole has been revealed in New York helicopter safety laws that may be putting lives at risk, according to a report in the New York Post yesterday.
After a small plane slammed into a tourist helicopter in 2009 on Manhattan’s West Side, killing nine people in a fiery crash, the Federal Aviation Administration restricted airspace above the Hudson River.
The airspace between 1,000 and 1,300 feet was accessible only to private planes, the FAA decreed, hoping to avoid future midair collisions.
But a loophole was created a year later, the New York Post reported yesterday, when the FAA allowed tour helicopters to enter at two separate places within that airspace.
The news comes on the heels of a helicopter crash last week, which killed one woman. Local officials have criticized the tourist choppers, saying they clog the skies with frivolous, and potentially dangerous, sightseeing flights.
Now, tour choppers can climb above 1,000 feet by entering through corridors at the Statue of Liberty and the Boat Basin on West 79th Street.
The newspaper reported that a “letter of agreement” was signed between five chopper tour companies and two FAA officials.
Jeffery Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, told the Post that higher choppers are less of a headache to residents complaining about noise.
Chopper loophole angers pilots
Both FAA bigwigs and private pilots in Manhattan are furious over the newly revealed loophole.
“You have hundreds of helicopters flying up and down through that airspace, and nobody knows about it,” Manhattan pilot Ken Paskar told the Post. “It’s insane.”
Private plane pilots have not even been warned about the oncoming choppers, according to the report.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.