WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation announces the following Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee hearing on Aviation Safety: The Hudson River Midair Collision and the Safety Of Air Operations in Congested Space.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service should contact Naomi Eskin at (202) 224-5115 to make any necessary arrangements.
John D. Rockefeller, IVSenatorWhile the safety of our air transportation network has increased dramatically, several eye-opening incidents over the past few years are a serious reminder: We have more work to do. We cannot afford to be complacent.In recent years, the aviation industry has changed rapidly, and the federal government must keep pace.At a number of hearings this year, this subcommittee has examined the safety of commercial aviation operations.From these hearings, a consistent theme has emerged: that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), aircraft operators, and Congress alike, must be vigilant and steadfast in our pursuit of one level of safety throughout the industry.We have focused primarily on commercial aviation operations – and our efforts have led to new work toward improved safety practices, including the training and rest requirements for pilots.But as the tragic incident over the Hudson River last month has shown us, we cannot ignore general aviation.Nine people died in that midair collision between a sightseeing helicopter and a small airplane in congested airspace – a solemn reminder that with increasingly sophisticated aircraft and increasing congestion in major urban areas, comes increased risk for general aviation too.I am concerned as well that there have been a number of general aviation crashes in my state West Virginia.We have a responsibility to look closely at the safety risks across the nation and to respond.These incidents also show just how important it is to move forward quickly when it comes to modernizing the air traffic control system. New technology would greatly reduce the risks of operating in a congested environment and enhance the safety of air travel significantly.The entire aviation community, both commercial carriers and general aviation operators must make every effort to achieve the highest level of safety possible.The U.S. has always had the premier aviation system in the world and it has played an essential role in our nation’s economy. And the public’s trust in that system is essential to its success and vitality.The only way to preserve that trust is by making sure safety is the top priority of all aviation professionals.This is our opportunity to make every aspect of aviation operations safer. Now is the time.I’d like to thank the witnesses for taking the time today to speak to the Aviation Subcommittee and I look forward to hearing their testimony.###
Frank R. LautenbergSenatorWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, issued the following statement at this afternoon’s hearing on the midair collision over the Hudson River.“Last month, in the middle of travel and tourism season, and in the middle of the business day, there was a tragedy over the Hudson River.A small, private airplane that took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey collided with a tourist helicopter that took off from New York City.All nine people on both the plane and the helicopter lost their lives.Clearly our first thoughts are with the victims’ families: what began as a day of business and pleasure ended as a day of disaster and mourning.But today our thoughts also need to be on the future—preventing a tragedy like this from happening again.That’s the reason I wrote Chairman Dorgan and asked that we convene this hearing—and I want to thank him for agreeing and holding it today.We both agree this deadly crash highlights major safety concerns with the largely unregulated and densely congested airspace below 1,100 feet over the Hudson River, known as the Exclusion Area.More than 200 aircraft fly through this area every day and pilots must navigate the busy skies through a tactic known as ‘see and avoid.’In this congested airspace, it is not enough for pilots to simply look both ways.I applaud FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt for convening the New York Airspace Taskforce immediately after this accident.The FAA Task Force and the NTSB have made preliminary recommendations to better manage this airspace and improve pilot and controller training.That’s a good start, but we need to do more.We need to fully staff the already overburdened air traffic control towers in the New Jersey/New York region—the most congested airspace in the country.And we need the technology to track all aircraft operating in this airspace.So today, I am calling on the FAA to expedite the implementation of the Next-Gen Air Traffic Control technology in the New Jersey and New York airspace—and work closely with air traffic controllers throughout this transition.We also have to address the general concerns about on-demand aircraft.On-demand aircraft receive less oversight from the FAA and have more fatalities than commercial aircraft, according to a report issued by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General last month.In fact, on-demand aircraft are 50 times more likely to have a fatal accident than commercial carriers.Unfortunately, the FAA’s rules for on-demand aircraft have not been updated since 1978.I look forward to learning what the FAA intends to do to address the safety of these planes and their passengers.Mr. Chairman, the New Jersey-New York region is one of the busiest regions in the country for travel, tourism, and economic activity.We cannot allow people’s lives—or our economy—to be threatened by gaps in the safety of our aviation system.”# # #
The Honorable Christopher HartVice ChairmanNational Transportation Safety Board
Mr. Rick DaySenior Vice President, OperationsFederal Aviation Administration
The Honorable James CoynePresidentNational Air Transportation Association
Mr. Edward KraghCertified Professional Controller, Newark TowerNATCA Representative on FAA NY VFR Airspace Task Force