It took a deadly act of terrorism to knock the nation’s fleet of electronic newsgathering (ENG) helicopters out of the air and, ironically, it required another disaster to restore many, if not all of them, to flight status. For helicopter users that make their living performing airborne journalism, the past four months have been the time for an uphill battle for one of the most visible (and controversial) of rotorcraft uses.
September 11 attacks
It was premeditated mass murder, almost flawlessly executed, and civil aircraft were the weapons of choice. A civil airplane was also the battlefield for the first retaliatory strike, when the passengers of a United 757 most likely aimed at a Washington landmark took matters into their own hands and fought back, causing the Boeing to fall short of its intended target.
On March 25, 1911, the worst factory fire in the history of New York City erupted in the three floors occupied by the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in a tall building on the northwest corner of Washington and Greene streets in Greenwich Village. The fire began in the cutting room on the eighth floor shortly after 4:30 p.m. and, fed by thousands of pounds of cotton fabric, it spread rapidly.
Plato may have been correct when he said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” but apparently that does not apply to flight instruction. At least not according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
More than a year later, southern Manhattan still seems scarred, incomplete; the variegated skyline stretching the length of the island seems an architectural sentence without an emphatic piece of closing punctuation. It’s the visual equivalent of “phantom limb syndrome,” that condition amputees suffer in which they’re not only aware of their amputated appendages but also suffer aches and pains as
Last September 10, the New York City Police aviation unit had a detailed disaster response and high-rise rescue plan in place. But the next day, NYPD’s Lt. Glenn Daley told an Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) seminar audience, “It all went out the window.”
I was till recently the chief pilot of the Port Authority police helicopter operation. As such, I was in charge of the day-to-day operations and mission for the Port Authority police department and the support of all the PA entities. Therefore, I was in the middle of the catastrophe on September 11 and the subsequent days, weeks and months.
TAG Aviation USA ended its dispute with the FAA by agreeing to pay a $10 million civil penalty (see '$10 million civil penalty ends TAG, FAA dispute'), but the discussions about the FAA enforcement action against AMI are far from over.
The commission investigating the 9/11 terror attacks is subpoenaing documents it says the FAA has withheld. The documents ostensibly would clear up an apparent conflict on when ATC first notified the North American Aerospace Defense Command that airliners had been hijacked. The FAA testified that Norad was notified almost immediately, but Norad testified it wasn’t notified for 30 minutes.
After investigating an allegation that the FAA destroyed an audiotape of six New York Center controllers’ accounts of the 9/11 attacks, Transportation inspector general Kenneth Mead said he found no indication that the FAA intentionally withheld information.