Controller Faulted in Hudson River Midair Crash

An air traffic controller distracted by a phone call about a dead cat made errors that contributed to the midair collision of a tour helicopter and small plane over the Hudson River last year, according to a federal safety panel.

But the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also faults Federal Aviation Administration rules that rely on pilots being able to "see and avoid" in the busy air space, in the collision that claimed nine lives.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman says she's concerned that midair collisions are still occurring more than 50 years after the FAA and nation's air traffic control system were created.

While larger planes have cockpit warning systems, there have been 59 collisions in the U.S. since 2005 involving helicopters or small planes, according to panel members.

Hersman says the New York collision was due to "a merger of missteps" beginning with the controller who cleared the plane for takeoff, but then became distracted by the phone call.

A series of errors ensued.

Photo, bclinesmith, flickr
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