Monday, August 17, 2009

Air Traffic Non-Control

Saw this a while back and just have to wonder how the guy only got suspended.
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The air traffic controller at Teterboro Airport was on the phone with his girlfriend during the mid-air collision over the Hudson River.

His supervisor had wandered off and wasn't even in the tower.

Horrified officials called their actions "unacceptable," even though they were not blamed for Saturday's crash. << HUH??

Both controllers - who were not immediately identified - have been suspended and will likely be fired. (likely? How about arrested and charged with negligent homicide??)

Crash probes by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the two controllers seriously deviated from their assignments at the time of the collision. (seriously deviated?? How about 'fucked up massively and got people killed' good grief!)

Nine people died when a single-engine Piper plane with three aboard clipped a Liberty Helicopters sightseeing chopper carrying a pilot and five Italian tourists. Both aircraft plummeted into the river.

The NTSB and FAA discovered the controller lapses by listening to audio recordings from the Teterboro tower.

"We learned that the controller handling the Piper flight was involved in apparently inappropriate conversations on the telephone at the time of the accident," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said. (oh great, talking dirty to his girlfriend while people were being slaughtered... nice.)

"We also learned that the supervisor was not present in the [tower] building as required."

Babbitt said, "We have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident" but he called the laxness unacceptable. (again, HUH?? Who the hell is covering for these jokers? Must be great to have high friends in low places or something...)

"We have placed the employees on administrative leave and have begun disciplinary proceedings," he said.

Air traffic control transcripts indicated no problems in the exchange between controllers at the New Jersey airport and the plane's pilot, Steven Altman, who was heading for Ocean City, N.J.

The controller gave Altman two choices of route, and he chose a straight shot down the Hudson.

NTSB chairwoman Debbie Hersman has said the controller told Altman to switch his radio over to the Newark tower - and gave the correct frequency - but Newark never made contact.

The controller was also on a separate line with his girlfriend.

"The handoff was never made," an aviation source said. (well, some kind of 'handoff' was made but it wasn't in the air)

Mayor Bloomberg was alarmed by the development.

"If true, this is an unacceptable breach of the trust we put in those who watch the city's sky," he said.

New clues to the crash may be contained in a dramatic tourist video of the tragedy that surfaced Thursday on NBC News.

The footage, taken from a boat on the river, shows Altman desperately trying to lift his left wing to avoid hitting the helicopter.

Meanwhile, the remains of the five Italian tourists were welcomed home to Bologna by a large, emotional crowd of friends, relatives and mourners.

Silvia Rigamonti, who lost her husband and youngest son, threw herself at her husband's casket.

kbazinet@nydailynews.com

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