Updated 08/15/2009 05:25 PM
FAA: Traffic Controllers Did Not Contribute To Air Crash
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As federal officials investigate last week's deadly collision between a helicopter and small plane over the Hudson River, new details recently emerged about the conduct of an air traffic controller moments before the crash.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board says a controller at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey made a phone call after clearing the single-engine Piper plane for takeoff on August 8 at 11:48 a.m.
According to the Associated Press, the controller's conversation was about a dead cat that had been removed from the airport.
The report says the controller then told the pilot at 11:52 a.m. to contact Newark Liberty Airport, which is part of procedure, but that the pilot apparently did not contact Newark.
The plane and Liberty Sightseeing Tours helicopter crashed a minute later, at 11:53 a.m. An Italian tourist caught an image of the collision which killed nine people, seen right.
Federal Aviation Administration officials say while the controller's phone conversation was inappropriate, the situation did not contribute to the accident.
NTSB officials say radar data show several aircraft in the plane's path, including the helicopter it collided with, but say the Teterboro controller did not warn the pilot.
The report also says when Newark tower crews warned Teterboro that the plane and chopper were too close, the Teterboro controller twice tried unsuccessfully to contact the pilot just before the crash.
Officials also say the Teterboro controller's supervisor was not in the building, as required, at the time of the crash.
The supervisor and controller have been placed on administrative leave.
Union officials representing air traffic controllers say they supports a full investigation and say there should be no rush to judgment on the controller's behavior.
Meanwhile, Liberty Sightseeing Tours helicopters took off Saturday the same West 30th Street heliport, under sunny skies that were reminiscent of the fatal day.
There, tourists told NY1 they were not deterred from viewing the city from above.
"Our trip was very smooth. It was not scary at all," said one tourist.
"It's terribly sad. Accidents do happen and at the end of the day, you have to just take each day as it comes. Anything could happen to anyone," said another.
"You think about about what might happen and things like that, but how many flights go off that you don't hear about," said another.
The federal investigating is still ongoing.