The deadly air crash on Saturday between a helicopter and a small plane, which left all nine passengers dead, has caused some soul-searching among the people who oversee New York City’s congested air traffic. The sky over the Hudson River is a corridor that at any given moment is crowded with small aircraft, particularly sightseeing helicopters. Such flights don’t need to contact air-traffic-control centers if they are flying under 1,100 feet, so there is no regulation or coordination from the outside. While some politicians and experts, like Chuck Schumer and Jerrold Nadler, have been gently pushing for a change in this policy for years now, a handful of pilots and bystanders are coming forward after this weekend’s nightmarish accident to say that they’ve always known such a disaster was “inevitable.” “We’re playing a game of Russian roulette,” griped Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. “There are 25,000 helicopter trips a year, and no one has to talk to anyone.” One pilot friend of Jeremy Clarke, who was steering the doomed helicopter on Saturday, said: “We were borderline surprised that it took so long for a crash like this to happen.” Ben Lane witnessed the crash, and frantically tried to radio his friend that a plane was approaching. He said the accident occurred as Clarke was taking off, rising up into the path of the other aircraft, whose pilot did not appear to see it coming.
Helicopter wreckage recovered yesterday.