PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The pilot of the single-engine airplane that collided with a tourist helicopter over the Hudson River obtained his license to fly more than a decade ago, had a clean flying record that included missions taking ill patients to medical facilities and was trained to fly even in poor weather.

There was nothing in the weather forecast or in Steven Altman’s aviation files to portend the horrifying accident that would happen Saturday 1,100 feet over the river, when his aircraft smashed into a tourist helicopter, killing nine people.

Altman had a clean record and was instrument-rated, meaning he was trained to fly in poor weather if necessary, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. His medical clearance was up to date, the only restriction being he needed glasses for nearsightedness.

“He was perfectly legal and qualified to fly that aircraft,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said Monday.

FAA records show that Altman, 60, of Ambler, Pa., got a license to fly in 1998.

The plane, a Piper manufactured in 1976, also had a clean record, according to FAA records. Altman bought it about a decade ago, said Michael V. Chiodo, of Blue Bell, Pa., who sold it to the pilot.

Altman set out from a suburban Pennsylvania airstrip and made a stop at the airport in Teterboro, N.J., before flying on with his brother, Daniel, and Daniel’s teenage son, Douglas, on the 114-mile flight to the beach town of Ocean City, N.J.

The trio had just taken off and were flying over the Hudson when the plane crashed into a helicopter carrying a pilot and five Italian tourists. All nine people died.

The Altmans’ immediate family has been reclusive since the accident, but the name is well-known in Pennsylvania real estate.

Steven Altman owned Altman Management Co., which oversaw more than 14,000 apartments in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, according to the company Web site. It was part of a company his father started in 1949.

Bruce Toll, co-founder of luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers, said the Altman family is well-regarded in the building industry and active in local Jewish charities.

“They’re just thought of as good, honest businessmen,” Toll said Monday, calling the accident tragic.

Steven Altman was one of five children, according to a biography of his father, David, posted on the Web site for Angel Flight East. The agency uses volunteer pilots to fly seriously ill patients to medical facilities. Altman traveled as a co-pilot on some missions, agency executive director Maureen Schmidt said Monday.

“They’re just a wonderful family … very generous,” Schmidt said.


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