Thursday, October 12, 2006

Crash Speculation

Got this e-mail from a pilot friend who now lives in New York:


Hi everybody,

It wasn't me !

Thanks for a lot of you checking on me. I got so many phone calls and emails,...

Anyway, you all probably heard and saw a tons of news clips on the airplane crash in Manhattan. The NY Yankees Lidle and flight instructor crashed with Lidle's SR20 into a high-rise building.

If you haven't flown around NY, here's a quick intro.

Even though you are very close to all 3 class B airspaces, there are special so called exclusions over the east river and Hudson river where you can fly between 500 and 1100 feet without talking to ATC. Over the east river the exclusion stops around Roosevelt Island and the river is really narrow there. If you want to fly up there, you have to fly up the east side of the river and then do a tight left 180 to fly southbound on the west side. And there are a bunch of tall buildings there. The weather conditions at the time of the crash (and I can confirm that looking out the window in Hoboken across the river) were 1800' overcast and the vix was not too good (estimate 5-6 miles) and a 10-15 knot wind from the east. So now, a private pilot with less than 100 hours (Lidle got his license a few months ago, just bought the SR20, the weather and wind from the east, tall buildings...None of this worked in his favor and I bet he underestimated the turn radius and drifted too far west over Manhattan.

I have never flown up there myself, but I know pilots who have and they all said even in a 172 with some flaps and flying very slow it's a tough turn. In a Cirrus and little experience, I would think this is kinda stupid.

Anyway, reports say there was an instructor on board, and the Cirrus is a low-wing, so I really don't understand how they could have not saved this situation. Some reports claim some mayday calls, but I that's not confirmed I guess.

Either way, it was a tragic accident, but still I think it was lucky that not more people were injured or killed.

I am wondering what the outcome for NY city sightseeing tours will be.

I usually fly the East river tour by starting out high over the Hudson river after I get a clearance from LaGuardia, I cross over Central Park at around 1500' and stay that high all the way south on the East River until I cross the Manhattan or Broookly bridge. Then I drop into the exclusion and head towards the Statue of Liberty, circle around it at 500-600 and then head north along the Hudson river at 500-1000 feet. So the only time I am close to buildings is when I fly past Ground 0 northbound on the Hudson river, but I have the whole wide river to stay far enough away from anything :-)


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