Board urges traffic alert systems for helo ops

 - December 28, 2010, 8:42 AM

Late last year the NTSB issued recommendations (A-10-124 through -128) in response to the 2009 fatal Hudson River midair between a Piper Lance and a tour helicopter that killed nine over New Jersey. Among those recommendations: the Safety Board wants the FAA to develop standards for, and then mandate installation of, electronic advisory systems for electronic news gathering, air tour and passenger charter helicopters. The NTSB wants those system standards to address the inherent performance differences of helicopters, including hovering and slower airspeeds, and their ability to operate safely near other aircraft; helicopters' unique missions, including those in congested airspace; and the need to reduce nuisance alerts.

The Safety Board made a similar recommendation for ENG helicopters following the collision of two news helicopters over Phoenix in July 2007. Subsequently, the NTSB determined that existing TSOs for these systems are weighted toward fixed-wing operations, "do not address specific standards for helicopter traffic advisory systems" and fail to consider "the different types of operation conducted by helicopters."

The NTSB also noted that the current certification standards "do not consider the potential for nuisance alerts during close-in operations, which can desensitize pilots to system warnings and thus decrease the effectiveness of the systems."

Airspace Rule Changes
After the 2009 accident the Safety Board also made recommendations specific to the crash area. It wants the FAA to redraw the boundaries of the East River common ­traffic advisory frequency area to include the Downtown Manhattan Heliport; establish different minimum altitudes in the corridor for local and transiting traffic; publish altitude information for the corridor on the VFR area chart; and identify air-tour operating areas as high-traffic environments.