Montgomery County pilot Michael Chiodo watched the news coverage of Saturday afternoon's helicopter and plane crash over the Hudson River in complete horror. Chiodo not only knew the pilot, Steven Altman of Ambler, Pa, he also sold him the Piper PA-32 plane that crashed.
"Great guy, great pilot," he said. "I happened to be on the phone with his father and his father saw it [on television], knew exactly what it was. It's tragic.
"I can't put myself in the cockpit, but I would imagine that it just got too close to this chopper, one way or another."
Aviation authorities identified Altman as the pilot and owner of the plane and said he carried two passengers; his brother Daniel Altman and nephew, Doug, according to the New York Times.
Reached at home, the pilot’s wife, Pamala, said her husband was licensed and had been scheduled to fly his plane on Saturday from Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey to Ocean City, on the Jersey Shore, she told the paper.
The small plane took off from Wings Field in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, stopped at Teterboro, New Jersey and was heading to Ocean City, New Jersey when it collided with a sightseeing helicopter carrying Italian tourists over the Hudson River.
A helicopter pilot on the ground saw the plane closing in on the helicopter and tried to radio a warning to his colleague. He did not receive a response.
"There was a loud pop, almost like a car backfire," said one eyewitness. "The helicopter dropped like a rock."
The crash scattered debris in the water and forced people on the New Jersey waterfront to run for cover.
Authorities believe all nine people aboard the two aircraft were killed.
The plane and chopper collided in what Chiodo said is a busy airspace with a lot of low-flying aircraft. Many pilots choose to fly there to save time. As long as pilots steer clear of Manhattan skyscrapers and stay under 1,000 feet they can pick their own route, according to the AP.
"That is known as a visual corridor for us to make a shortcut so that you don't have to go through the air traffic control zone," Chiodo said.
Chiodo said that Altman picked up his brother and nephew in Teterboro, at the time of the crash.
"This type of accident should have never happened. You have a fixed wing plane mixing with a helicopter 1,100 feet and below and the FAA should not have it set up like this," said another pilot.