Flights over New York river restricted after Yankee's crash

Effective immediately, pilots of small, fixed-wing planes flying along the East River in New York City must maintain contact with air traffic controllers.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that any pilot of a small, fixed-wing plane flying along the East River in New York City must maintain contact with air traffic controllers effective immediately.

The decision comes just two days after New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and flight instructor Tyler Stanger were killed when the Cirrus SR20 aircraft they were flying in crashed into a Manhattan highrise.

Investigators said hours after the crash that air traffic control tapes revealed the pilot planned on flying up and down the East River, which could be navigated by visual flight rules without assistance from tower controllers.

Since 1980, flights along the river have been limited to small aircraft flying no higher than about 335 metres in weather good enough for pilots to see and avoid other airplanes.

The ban will not affect helicopters.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Democrat Senator Charles Schumer pushed for immediate changes in the wake of the crash, which revealed that flight patterns along the river hadn't been re-assessed since the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks.

"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.

However, the FAA said unpredictable winds made the change necessary for safety, not security, reasons.

The plane smashed into the 40-storey luxury Belaire condo tower, sending black smoke and flames billowing at the point of impact on the 30th and 31st floors.

The crash left debris, including aircraft parts, headsets and the pilot's log book, all over the street. The propeller broke apart from the engine, which landed in an apartment.

Several people were treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Lidle, who spent one season with the Toronto Blue Jays in a nine-year career, reportedly had logged about 88 hours of flying time.

The 34-year-old and Stanger, 26, were airborne for about 15 minutes after leaving New Jersey's Teterboro Airport at 2:21 p.m. ET. It is not known who was piloting the plane.

With files from the Associated Press