FAA Probes Hudson Plane Controllers

The FAA has placed two air traffic control employees on administrative leave over their handling of the airplane involved in a fatal crash with a helicopter Saturday over the Hudson River off New York City.

"We learned that the controller handling the Piper flight was involved in apparently inappropriate conversations on the telephone at the time of the accident," the FAA said in a prepared statement. "We also learned that the supervisor was not present in the building as required."

The small Piper plane collided with a tour helicopter over the river between New York and New Jersey in an area not under the direction of air traffic controllers. However, air traffic controllers were in contact with the plane before the collision that killed all three people on the plane and all six aboard the helicopter.

The New York Daily News reported the "inappropriate conversations" were by a controller at Teterboro Airport, where the plane took off, who was on the phone with his girlfriend as he guided the plane toward the Hudson corridor on another channel.

"While we have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident, this kind of conduct is unacceptable and we have placed the employees on administrative leave and have begun disciplinary proceedings," the FAA said in its statement.

Neither the controller nor his supervisor were named by the FAA.

The plane was found Monday, 60 feet underwater, and raised later. The helicopter was recovered in 30 feet of water Sunday.

The news of the disciplinary action against the controllers came as some television stations aired amateur video that showed the collision between the helicopter and the plane. Investigators had been searching for such footage to aid in their investigation of the accident.

Crowded Skies, No Directions

In the wake of the accident, critics are calling for more restrictions for flights within the crowded Hudson River corridor.

In that area over the river, aircraft flying below 1,100 feet are virtually on their own, with no air traffic controllers guiding them in the crowded airspace. National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said it's the responsibility of pilots "to see and be seen and be aware of traffic around them."

It's also a busy space: The area saw 225 flights every day in the week prior to the accident, investigators said.

"It is unconscionable that the FAA permits unregulated flights in a crowded airspace in a major metropolitan area," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "And it is ridiculous that private planes and helicopters flying through a crowded area are dependent, while in flight, on visually sighting other aircraft and communicating with them. The real-life repercussions of these non-existent regulations have been disastrous."

ABC News' Lisa Stark and Kate Barrett contributed to this report.

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