Two years ago, a sightseeing helicopter and a small private plane collided over the Hudson River, killing a total of 9 people and raising questions about air traffic safety. Now, the Post reports, "The federal government has struck a secret deal with operators of tourist helicopters -- allowing them to fly in airspace over the Hudson River supposed to be reserved only for small, private aircraft." To make matters worse, "Even the private pilots who use the corridor are not warned by FAA flight briefers to be on alert for the choppers they don’t expect to encounter."
The Post reminds us that after the crash, "the FAA gave 'transient' aircraft flying above the river -- mostly single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft on sightseeing flights -- exclusive access to a corridor between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet above the water. Aircraft can enter or leave the corridor at two points only: one several miles north of the George Washington Bridge, the other just north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge." Now, "Tour helicopters -- with air controllers’ OK -- may now climb and descend through the corridor near the Statue of Liberty and the West 79th Street Boat Basin. The aim of the new setup is to give choppers access to altitudes above 1,300 feet." Why allow greater access at those heights? Because of the helicopter noise crackdowns.
During the 2009 crash, the air traffic controller that should have been warning the aircraft was on the phone with a friend, joking about a dead cat.