As a Teterboro air traffic controller joked with a co-worker about BBQ-ing a dead cat, a pilot was making a critical error that caused a mid-air crash with a helicopter over the Hudson River, federal authorities said.
While the two yakked, the doomed pilot read the wrong radio frequency that he needed in order to contact Newark Liberty International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board disclosed on Wednesday.
This occurred just moments after Newark controllers insisted that their Teterboro counterparts “get him away from that other traffic, please.”
Contact soon cut out, and the plane rose quickly and slammed up into a Liberty Tours sightseeing helicopter filled with Italian tourists. Nine people in all were killed.
The controller, Carlyle Turner, and Dennis Moore, a supervisor, have been on paid administrative leave since the August crash, said Arlene Salac, an FAA spokeswoman.
Records show Moore took a break, hitting the bathroom and then the post office, when the crash occurred on a bright Saturday morning.
“We got plenty of gas in the grill?” Turner said, while responsible for monitoring the plane‘s radio transmissions — as originally reported by CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM . “Fire up the cat!”
“Chinese people do it, so why can’t we,” Turner said, according to NTSB documents.
The chatter continued, even while Turner directed pilot Steven Altman to contact Newark Liberty International Airport — where a controller was trying to warn people that another aircraft was in his path, the NTSB said.
The Newark controller wasn’t the only one aware of trouble.
“You have a plane behind you,” someone from Liberty Tours radioed the helicopter‘s pilot. “I don’t know if he is going to pass you.”
Then came the crash. (See: Amateur video shows mid-air colllision )
Shortly after, the plane hit the helicopter. (See: Italian authorities want criminal investigation )
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