The Misanthrope has received many emails requesting commentary on yesterday's plane crash on 72nd Street in Manhattan. There are still some things that are unclear about the chain of events, so I will hold off on a longer post for the moment.
I will take this opportunity to point out that calls from Governor Pataki and others to "tighten up the airspace" around New York City are misguided and pointless. For the sake of argument, let's say that Lidle had been in contact with air traffic control throughout his trip on a filed flight plan. How exactly would that have prevented the accident?
The answer is that it wouldn't. Pataki and others are playing into a fantasy that many non-pilots have that air traffic control can actually control planes and that some higher force intervenes the second there is a deviation from the "flight plan." It's just not the way it is. Even if we got rid of the special exclusion zone from the Class B airspace that Lidle was flying in and required all planes to be on a flight plan at all times, that wouldn't prevent anything. If Lidle's final trip was an accident, he wouldn't have been able to control the result. If somebody were to fly through New York airspace with a clearance from, say, LaGuardia tower (the controlling authority for the northern half of the New York Class B airspace), they could easily deviate from course and crash into a building long, long, long before a jet could even be scrambled.
There is sadness in the pilot community every time somebody goes down. With this crash, there is also great consternation that uninformed politicians will use it as a pretext for erecting an Air Defense Identification Zone around New York. This would be a bad policy result. The Washington ADIZ has been a disaster for general aviation. Let's not make the same mistake in New York.
Some thoughts on potential causes of the crash after I check with some sources.