September 17, 2009 - Wrong Frequency May Have Affected Crash

A U.S. official told a congressional panel Wednesday the pilot of a plane involved in a midair crash Aug. 8 may have misheard a controller radio frequency.

Deborah Hersman, head of the National Transporation Safety Board, testified before the House Aviation Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.

The plane collided with a helicopter near noon over the Hudson River near Hoboken, N.J. Both pilots and seven passengers aboard the aircraft were killed.

Minutes beforehand, the plane pilot acknowledged an instruction from a local controller to change radio frequencies and receive guidance from a different area controller. Hersman said the pilot read back an incorrect frequency, and recordings "do not indicate that the incorrect read-back was heard or corrected by any air traffic controller."

The pilot "may not have been making and monitoring the (common traffic advisory frequency)," where other aircraft report their positions, Hersman said. Instead, "the pilot likely expected to continue to receive flight-following services from (air traffic control)."

"The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilots' inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship in the performance of a 180-degree turn maneuver inside the limited turning space over the East River," she added.

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