CBSN

Officials: Wind To Blame For Lidle Crash

Lower Manhattan skyline
AP
A stiff wind was cited by federal investigators Friday for blowing a small airplane carrying new York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle off-course and into a New York high rise on Oct. 11.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the wind, coupled with the pilot's inability to turn sharply, forced the aircraft away from its intended path over the East River and into the building.

The airplane, which also carried flight instructor Tyler Stanger, struck the building and fell 30 stories to the street below. Both men were killed.

Investigators do not say whether they determined who was at the controls of the Cirrus SR20. Though Stanger was an experienced pilot, Lidle was not.

The report issued Friday said the airplane was flying along the East River between Manhattan and Queens when it attempted a U-turn with only 1,300 feet of room for the turn. To make a successful turn, the aircraft would have had to bank so steeply that it might have stalled, the NTSB said in an update on the crash.

According to the report, "there was no sign of an in-flight fire or damage to the airplane," prior to the crash, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

Lidle and Stanger were making an aerial tour of Manhattan before flying back to California.

If the pilot used the full width of the river to turn, he would have had 2,100 feet, the NTSB said. Instead, the pilot was flying closer to the middle of the river, leaving a smaller margin for error, the staff report said.

Two days after the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered small, fixed-wing planes not to fly over the East River unless the pilot is in contact with air traffic controllers.

Small planes could previously fly below 1,100 feet along the river without filing flight plans or checking in with air traffic control. The FAA said the rule change — a temporary one — was made for safety reasons.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had asked the FAA to require anyone flying near Manhattan to be under the supervision of air traffic controllers.

"A smart terrorist could load up a small, little plane with biological, chemical or even nuclear material and fly up the Hudson or East rivers, no questions asked," said Schumer.

Schumer said the Lidle crash should be "a wake-up call to the FAA to re-examine flight patterns, which, amazingly enough, they haven't done since 9/11." The date refers to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack when two airliners were flown into the World Trade Center.

The NTSB's update outlined factual information about the crash, but did not conclude what the probable cause of the crash was. The full board will likely vote on a ruling at a later date.