Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NTSB: phone call contributed to mid-air over Hudson

(CNN) -- A personal phone conversation by an air traffic controller likely contributed to the cause of a deadly midair collision over the Hudson River last year, the The National Transportation Safety Board said.

A single-engine plane and a sightseeing helicopter collided on August 8, 2009 near Hoboken, New Jersey. All nine people aboard the two aircraft were killed, including several Italian tourists visiting New York from Bologna.
In a statement released Tuesday, the NTSB said the air traffic controller's personal phone call "distracted him from his air traffic control duties, including the timely transfer of communications for the accident airplane to the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) tower and correcting the airplane pilot's incorrect read-back of the EWR tower frequency."

The on-duty personal phone conversation might not have been the first for the air traffic controller.
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An NTSB report says the controller's personal call might not have taken place "if the front line manager had corrected the controller's performance deficiency involving an earlier nonpertinent telephone conversation."

In addition, the board said, the "front line manager, who was not present in the air traffic control tower at the time of the accident, exercised poor judgment by not letting staff know how he could be reached while he was away from the tower and by not using an available staffing asset to provide an additional layer of oversight at the tower during his absence."


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