Doors-Off Helicopter Flights Under Scrutiny After East River Crash

The crash raised questions about the safety risks involved in allowing amateurs on so-called photo flights.

Comments: 248

  1. They are given a knife to 'cut themselves out of their straps', if something happens? That right there would have given me serious pause. I would have wanted to somehow first 'ensure' that the knife was sharp enough to easily slice through the strap...that I would have been able to quickly do so. And yet, how could one 'test that' beforehand?...clearly they don't have sample straps laying around for everyone to first try cutting with their knives.

  2. Could not agree more. Any emergency escape device that involves cutting with a knife is a serious red flag as to why that adventure should be a no. And most of the victims were young, fit and able bodied. So that demonstrates how unworkable that Deer Hunter solution was in an emergency. Sad and unnecessary deaths.

  3. I find this story appalling. Open doors on helicopters? After dark? Whose lunacy is behind this? If this is the best our so-called civilized society has to offer, then it hardly behooves us to publicize the world's desperate populations. We have no excuse for this tragedy except greed and stupidity.

  4. Ditto. This type of "adventure" travel is not only dangerous for passengers and crew, it endangers the lives of rescue workers.
    Although highly trained, it's extremely dangerous to work in the conditions the divers had. Rescue workers deserve all the praise and gratitude we can muster. Stop the stupidity.

  5. Would you mind open doors in daylight?

  6. Greed, stupidity and let's not forget all-important followers on Instagram.

  7. I live in Hoboken and would love for them to be banned entirely. All weekend long in good weather these things fly up and down the Hudson River at 5-minute intervals, resulting in constant noise pollution.

  8. Same for me out on the North Fork of Long Island.

  9. That is a NIMBY issue not a safety issue.

  10. So very sorry for all those who lost family and friends in this tragedy. At the very least it would seem that safety requirements should be tightened so that passengers can easily escape from their "safety" harnesses? Following an accident of this type should tourists be expected to both find the knife, and cut through harnesses in the dark/wet cabin of a sinking helicopter? Seems there has to be a better way?

  11. It's hard to believe that being provided a knife to cut through a safety harness in an emergency is an acceptable safety standard--and the deaths of these young passengers bears that out. In an aircraft that costs millions of dollars, is it that hard to create a harness with a quick release button? If that's not feasible due to the fact that the aircraft had open doors--then no more open doors on helicopter tours.

  12. Can you "accidentally" release your buckled seat belt? usually no. Same concept and mechanism for the harness.

  13. why not just no more helicopters? why not just no more guns? why not just no more terrorists? why not just people wise up and care for themselves.

  14. The seat belt buckle is most certainly not a quick release, and takes a surprising amount of force to operate. They work very well in the geometry of a car seat but are surprisingly hard to operate when on the chest. Note that airline seat belts don't have the same latch for exactly that reason; the automobile style are too hard to reliably operate when on the lap instead of beside you. That style, however, is completely inappropriate for any operation where you are moving around.

    When I was flying with crew members near open doors, they had a full parachute harness with a clasp over the hasp to preclude accidental opening. Not at all a "quick release"

  15. On February 27, 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) require that all helicopters used in commercial air tour operations over water, regardless of the amount of time over water, be amphibious or equipped with fixed or inflatable floats (Safety Recommendation A-07-27). The FAA disagreed and never implemented the NTSB recommendation. Since then, this is at least the fourth helicopter that has crashed into water causing fatalities. Check it out at:

  16. Good catch. Gracias.

  17. Just about every helicopter that I'm aware of having crashed in the E River over the past 30+ years has either sunk or flipped over, sometimes both.

  18. Only 11 years?

  19. I saw the twitter video of the crash -- it was not high speed. The pilot clearly knew where his knife was and it is a shame the passengers did not. These five avoidable deaths are squarely on Liberty and FlyNYON, and both businesses should be shut down permanently.

  20. The pilot was probably not as tightly harnessed as his passengers

  21. I wonder if the pilots on these flights have a different release system, no knife needed?

  22. The pilot needed no knife to free himself. He was buckled into his seat with a standard seatbelt -- not tethered from behind like the unfortunate passengers.

  23. This entire scenario is so bad on so many levels. The notion of riding in a helicopter with no doors with the only "safety feature" being a knife to cut the harness in case of an emergency goes beyond common sense, much less comprehension. How and why in the world are these helicopters and sight seeing companies allowed to operate with so little regard for a passenger's safety in case an emergency? How horrific all the way around.

  24. I am sure a few lawsuits will take care of the issues you raise. And it's about time.

  25. Sounds like a heli scene from apocolypse now. With everyone leaning out of the open door but instead of machine guns, iPhones. And this insanity is allowed ?? Well I'm sure they signed a waiver. The difference of this risky behaviour vs base jumping is the assumption of the tourists who line up for this that there is no real risk.

  26. The "safety" measures on this chopper might work for Green Berets and Special Forces. Certainly not for civilians. Surely there's a better way to design harnesses with a quick release in front. But a knife?

  27. These type of harnesses already exist. The person simply pulls on a cord to let themselves out.

  28. Would such a quick-release be a serious liability when mixed with inexperienced camera-packing civilians hanging out of an open door?

  29. Except that when the inexperienced passengers leaning toward open doors, taking pictures, inadvertently pull on the ripcord, and out they go. That's why the chopper in this case had harnesses that are difficult to disengage. I don't think that it's happenstance that the pilot, the one person who knew how to unbuckle and get out, is the only survivor.

  30. Before I turned 30, I eye witnessed two helicopter crashes resulting in deaths and serious injuries. One of them also caught on fire. I refuse to ride in them, only if in a necessary emergency medi-vac or rescue situation.
    At least with a fixed wing aircraft you have a chance of landing, as Capt. Sully well demonstrated upon the Hudson.

  31. An unpowered helicopter experiencing an engine failure can auto-rotate (basically descend slowly) to the ground, just as a jet experiencing an engine failure can glide to a landing.

  32. Not the one I saw coming in for a landing at Waikiki Beach in front of the Ala Moana Hotel. This tourist filled copter slammed hard down on to the helo-pad.

  33. I'm sorry for these deaths. But a little perspective is in order. In thousands of hours flown, how many people die? Yes: helicopters are inherently more dangerous than other types of flight.... but the experience is unique, and doubtless that was the experience these folks wanted. They made this choice. How many of us pay attention to the "exit info" on commercial flights? Same sort of thing. "It won't happen to me," I tell myself. And it hasn't.

  34. Fortunately, I guess, it fell into the East River. What if it had fallen a few feet east - onto a building or street? The rivers are not runways for helicopters and should be banned with the exception of getting from point A to point B - i.e., travel use, or by the police or military. Manhattan is constructed of many residential neighborhoods and these drones are noisy and invasive. Even the news agencies should be banned from using them - buzzing overhead for traffic reports. Such nonsense.

  35. Good point - there was the recent crash in the Grand Canyon - how many thousands of flights happened before that incident? Everything involves risk - walking across the street in your neighborhood before being mowed by a driver who had no business behind a wheel; or the snowboarders who got killed in the Sierra Nevadas last week. All we can do is try to make things as safe as possible. But there is no pure guaranteed failsafe.

  36. Helicopters are dangerous noise machines. As someone who lives on the Upper West Side, my wife and I have long advocated for reduction or elimination of tourist helicopters that fly above the Hudson River and make an afternoon in Riverside Park a headache with the overhead assault. There was a organization called Stop the Chop that fought the tourist helicopter companies, but its website was hacked and is down for the moment at least. Manhattan/NJ politicians should do more to protect their constituents, instead of taking 'donations' from the helicopter companies. One thing they did do, the Sunday helicopter ban, seems not to be effective since the crash was on Sunday on the East River. Isn't the ban for both rivers? Who is monitoring the tourist choppers? Let's get organized before crashes and noise this summer.

  37. I'm totally agree with you! I live on the UES and they are a noise blight especially during summer months with flights to the Hamptons.

  38. Yeah, the noise. Who cares about the deaths? Let's make your home more tranquil. Priority number one.

  39. So we do nothing to alleviate the problem? Sheer idiocy.

  40. I fly as a passenger in a helicopter recreationally, and although I don't know much about helicopters, I do know that if a water landing is anticipated the first priority is to detach your seatbelt. Probably the first thing I learned about being in a helicopter. I wonder if passengers were briefed on this fact. They should not have had to "wiggle" out of anything or cut the harness; buckles should have been within easy access for detachment at all times.

  41. As a pilot, open doors and rear connected harnesses sound perfectly reasonable for the mission of low level photography. A thin door in this case would've just been another escape barrier. What is troubling is that it appears they did not get a proper briefing for the dangerous part about the flight-that it was low level, and that any emergency would probably result in a ditching, possibly one where the pilot might not be able to inflate the flotation that should've allowed him to autorotate down to a soft, upright water landing. The fact that the pilot was able to unbuckle and crawl out means that they were all conscious and should've been able to get out as well if they had known how. Beyond tragic.

  42. No, the fact that the pilot was able to get out just means that he has rehearsed and practiced such escapes. I’m sure the passengers were panicking. Pretty disingenuous of you to “assume” they should have been able to get out.

  43. Meaningfully briefing inexperienced casual passengers like these is a total impossibility.

  44. A door is not another escape barrier. It is what keeps the aircraft floating and the passengers able to breath for precious seconds or minutes after impact; time that could be spent getting out of the harnesses. This flight should never have taken place, this service should not exist and the owners of the company should be sued into poverty and also tried for manslaughter. Let's see how long till we find out that these tour companies contribute to local politicians who carry their water with safety regulators.

  45. What a horrible way to go... slowly descending toward the water and then unable to free themselves from their harnesses. That water is freezing cold, dark, and disorienting. To expect a bunch of tourists to be able to slice themselves out of a multi-point harness and then escape a rapidly sinking chopper in cold, dark water is lunacy. That scenario is drilled into soldiers numerous times with simulated choppers actually dunked into water, and it's still a precarious escape. These types of flights and the safety regulations surrounding them need to be revisited from the top down.

  46. I have lived near the E River for many years and have witnessed several of these incidents. In my exerience, the only people who survive are the ones who get themselves out immediately and can manage to hold onto something (the copter or something else) until help arrives.

    People who are trapped under water in the copter don't survive, even if they are taken to the hospital in "critical condition." They die in following days and weeks. Because it usually takes 10-15 mins for divers to arrive they suffer irreversible brain damage. You can have 1000 cops and firefighters there within a minute or two (as I once observed down by the 34th st, heliport), but it's no good if they don't include divers who can get into water by the copter immediately.

    The safety screening should have included better instructions on where those "knives" were and how to use them. Even if they did, it would probably still be tough to get out. Have you ever wondered how you would react in a commercial aircraft "water landing" where you had to poke around looking for your "flotation device?"

  47. I do not disagree with your assessment ellienyc, however, whenever I fly on a commercial aircraft, I actually DO listen, observe and pay attention to what the flight attendants are demonstrating. I read the instruction sheet, look for the flotation device, AND look for the emergency exists. I have the entire flight to sleep, read my book and/or listen to my music. The very least I owe myself (and my fellow passengers) is to know where stuff is in case an emergency should arise. Knowing this material could literally save one's life.

  48. i listen carefully to safety screenings, too, but still doubt my ability to carry through on them in an emergency situation, especially with .planes as crowded as they are today

  49. I hear ya ellienyc and I sincerely apologize if I appeared to be disrespectful and/or rude in my reply to your comment. Who really knows how he/she would react in a situation like that helicopter crash and heaven forbid, any airline emergency. All I do know is if you were sitting next to me, I would like to think I would do my very best to keep us both safe. May neither of us ever be in that kind of frightening situation.

  50. Before all the civilian postmortems and "should have's" drawn conclusions here, let the NTSB air crash investigators determine the cause and make their recommendations to avoid such a tragic accident in the future.

  51. What is it about the American character that dreams up an emergency measure that uses knives, rather than safety buttons or some other method to protect passengers? Was it stupidity or carelessness? My guess is that the thinking involved was not an aberration, but a troubling defect or trait that guides most business people in our capitalistic system: profit above all else and an indifference to human life in pursuit of it. And the poor victims were willing to assume the risk created by that indifference. Next time a conservative sniffs at government regulation, remind him or her of this tragedy.

  52. Like prescribing guns to save schoolchildren from shootings...

  53. Well, if the passengers had been carrying guns they could have shot their way out.

  54. The comments about helicopter safety by people that have no expertise are absurd. I can understand not wanting to have one fly by constantly to give tourists a view of the city.
    In elementary school we took the Circle Line tour, just as impressive and lasts longer. View of the city, why not take the train to Queens or Jersey?
    Flying into LaGuardia, get a left side window seat.

  55. paulie: I've often flown into LGA and, as you suggest, sat in a reserved left side window seat. A safe, world-class view of the capital of the world, as the plane's approach is over Queens, well to the east of the East River.

  56. Before we focus too narrowly on the seat belt issue, I want to see the service and maintenance records for that particular helicopter. The seat belts weren't even an issue until the helicopter landed in the water. Engine failure is the root cause for this tragedy. Actually, seat belts might not even be the issue at all. Do all open door helicopters require a knife for emergency egress? The particular model shown here doesn't exactly look new. Maybe tour companies are operating with outdated safety technology.

    The nylon webbing is only one point of failure that led to these people's premature deaths.

  57. Tragic loss as the copter appeared to land on the water lightly enough so that all could survive the landing.
    When I lived in Washington Heights, these noise machines hovered over the neighborhood in the early morning to report traffic patterns on the George Washington Bridge, really annoying.

  58. They still do. You can all but hear Robin Williams roaring, "Good morning, Vietnam!!"

  59. As last night and early this morning news copters were hovering over east midtown "reporting" on the crash and its aftermath.

  60. The tourist helicopter industry in NYC is a major polluter, pays minimal taxes and, thanks to DiBlasio, operates with no oversight on a city-owned pier. Hopefully some young politician on the rise might see how dangerous this industry is, both for the riders and the entire city, and shut them down.

  61. This is a sad story that repeats itself so often and my condolences to those impacted. The Times archive is full of these stories. The 1990 Island Helicopter East River Crash that killed Robert Faller and his fathers subsequent pursuit for justice foreshadows these events. New York magazine has an excellent article on that tragic story. Clearly there is a long history of rear helicopter seat belt entrapment.
    The recent Grand Canyon crash and all the others seem to indicate a insidious complacency born from the endless routine of sightseeing flights. It ironically contrary to the assurances given so often by these companies - "it is safe we do it all the time."

  62. i remember the 1990 crash, which also happened in winter, well as I lived right across the street and happened to walk out of my building as first emergency vehicles arrived and I walked over to watch. Though hundreds of rescuers arrived within minutes, none had boats and none were divers. Everyone on that copter except the young boy got out and were holding on to the overturned craft as it was rapidly swept out and down the East River by the strong currents. After 10 or 15 minutes rescue boats and copters arrived with divers and they were able to get the boy out, but by then he was in cardiac arrest and he died days later at Bellevue. It was such a tragedy -- I believe the flight was a birthday gift from his father.

  63. Good memory Ellie,
    His father took him on the trip as a surprise during his visitation. The maternal mother was very afraid of flying. It ended costing him both his current and previous relationship, the mother never spoke to him again. Apparently all caused (as seen in photos) by the pilot removing a hand off the collective to give the bird. Again the New York magazine article -google "Robert Faller New Yorker" the 1994 Aug 1st article says it all -in-depth.

  64. I wasn't the pilot on this particular flight, but I'm curious as to why the pilot in this case couldn't auto-rotate down to an open space *other* than water.

    For those who do not know, helicopters are designed to be able to "auto-rotate"(safely descend via their freely rotating unpowered rotor blades) in the event of an engine failure.

  65. i was thinking the same thing earlier today -- like whether there was enough open space for him to have done something like that nearby -- maybe on Roosevelt Island, nearby Asphalt Green recreational complex, on other side of river in Queens, or maybe even on the lawn of Gracie Mansion, the Mayoral residence, which I believe was only several hundred yards away from where the copter went down in the river. Most previous copter crashes in the E River - and there have been several - have involved at least 1 or 2 fatalities, as copters invariably flip over and people who don't get out right away get trapped. I would have thought that might have been on pilot's mind.

    Also, there is the disused former PanAm heliport on 60th street at East River, right by 59th street bridge. Hasn't been used in years and ave no idea what current status is or whether could have been used, but they flew right by it.

  66. So I'm assuming you are a pilot and have flown that area, specifically the East River in that location. Because I'm pretty sure there's not a lot of open pasture to set a malfunctioning helicopter down in with all that spinning rotor action going on.

    I seem to remember stuff like trees and buildings in the way, but maybe that's all gone now.

  67. People questioning the availability of space on land in Manhattan to have brought that copter down need only look at the dimensions of the 34th street heliport (where the bodies were brought and a press conference held last night) or the old,now unused, PanAm heliport at 60th st. and the river. Not to mention the roof of the former PanAm building at Grand Central, the scene of what I still consider the mother of all NYC helicopter disasters.

  68. Stop helicopters period.

  69. What an absolute disaster and waste of lives. Strapped in, but no quick release. Who’s idea was it to think that in an emergency situation someone will cut themselves free. Better solve the problem before more flights are made.

  70. Had the harnesses included the proper latch and link style buckle, knives would not have been necessary at all.

  71. 'Given a knife to cut their straps in case of a water landing'. The mind boggles unless these were trained Navy Seals

  72. Oh. My. God.

    Knives to escape the harnesses? The location of the knives not pointed out to the passengers???

    The horror of this is outrageous.

  73. I used to fly in an old T-34 with an open cockpit. The safety harness of nylon and metal had button in front to push that undid it yet you still had to take your arms out. The pilot, from the Vietnam era, made me practice until I could do it quickly. He has thousands of hours of flight time but still treats it as a first time briefing. As to the floats, according to other news sources, only one deployed, causing the helo to tip over. If both had deployed at the same time, the passengers would probably be alive today.

  74. These helicopter crashes are an embarrassment to the city and need to be banned, not restricted. Want some high-flying excitement? Go to Coney Island and take a ride on the Wonder Wheel.

  75. "Only knives to escape in an emergency"?....and this is legal HOW???

  76. From the Hamptons bound air taxis to the incessant NYC tourist choppers it is the wild west up in the air. The industry is lightly regulated compared to commercial fixed wing. Companies like Liberty and their lobbying groups have bought off NYC politicians as evidenced by the limp wristed tourist chopper restrictions recently enacted.

    This horrible accident shows how the industry has worked around that pesky Sunday tourist chopper ban - just depart from Kearny, NJ and problem solved.

    Hey NYC - how about banning the tourist choppers for a month and see how many calls you get from tax paying residents who miss them??

  77. It's NYC economic development commission that regulates these, not a safety or environmental board. I know, having complained about them many times.

  78. I've lost count of the helicopter tragedies taking place in NYC waters over the past 30+ years, there have been many sorrowful occurrences. I'd like to see the tourist trips banned also — there are many other exciting, less dangerous ways to view the city and not add to already congested air traffic looming overhead.

  79. If inflatable floats had been installed and or activated this would have been a nonevent.

  80. They only partially inflated.

  81. Even if the knives had been within reach, can you even imagine that panic those poor people experienced in their last moments? I know if I was in that situation I wouldn't have the calm state of mind needed to cut myself loose.
    May they Rest in Peace.

  82. Riddle me this... Is a knife required to get out of a harness after a normal landing? Were there quick release mechanisms on the harnesses?

  83. No, only in case of an emergency.

  84. This will be the question being asked in court by the attorneys representing the deceased.

    I can only think of one reason for a company to want to use a harness in a helicopter without a quick release, and that is they don’t want the untrained person wearing it falling out of the helicopter by accidentally releasing it in flight.

    I really feel for the deceased’s families. The deaths were entirely preventable.

  85. As a 4000 hour, 15 year helicopter pilot having flown search and rescue, fire fighting and also film operations, this accident boggles my mind.

    Passengers on harnesses on low level flight ops, teathered to the helicopter by way of a harness without a quick release mechanism was and always is a recipe for disaster.

    The attorneys and the FAA are going to have a field day with NYONAIR and rightly so.

    Many people killed in a perfectly surviveable crash.

  86. Attorney with 34 years of practice says the company will simply declare bankruptcy, reform and continue business as usual, the FAA will do nothing, and tragedies like these will continue until we elect representatives that put constituents before party or campaign donations.

  87. The FAA should be sued as well for negligence in allowing this harness setup to be used. In my view the FAA is part of the problem and although their investigator division I’m sure will determine what happened, the regulatory division of the agency should be ashamed of their performance!!

  88. I agree with your comments except concerning the FAA. The FAA is responsible for this travesty of helicopters destroying NYers right to peaceful enjoyment of their city and homes. The FAA does not care. The FAA did nothing following 9/11. If the FAA cared about the safety of NYers there would be no helicopters and no low flying planes over the city, East River or Hudson River.

  89. A helicopter is a dangerous instrument, at least it is a German invention parallel to the one of Sikorski. In recent times helicopters have shown problems with computer guiding. Complicated technology always serves an easy death. It's the curse of civilization, sorry to say.

  90. There seems to be a thrill seeking among people. Extreme sports abound. Some folks are afraid of amusement park rides ( I am- especially hearing folks scream on a roller coaster). Whatever the pleasure seeking part of our brain may lure us to we may try. The rational part says 'be careful', the other says 'no let's do this-what could happen'? Well we find out later and than ask questions about safety and all that. Remember William Burroughs convincing his sweetie to put an apple on her head so he could shoot it off. OOPS!
    We ( humans) continue to impress others that we are not the highest form of intelligence on this earth.

  91. It's not thrill seeking, it's "like" seeking, as in "how many Instragram likes will my photo get me".

  92. Cut yourself out with a knife? that is crazy. I am sure the pilot survived from his training and being comfortable in a helicopter. If this was the riders first time I can see them freezing up from the terror not to mention knowing the appropriate time to cut yourself out. It needs a better harness and emergency training for passengers.

  93. Sightseeing tours in helicopters should be banned not only in Manhattan, but nation wide. For a few people to enjoy the view so the rest below can be harassed by the noise pollution created by copters is unfair.

    I am not sure how much noise they contribute to Manhattan's deafening roar, but those things really destroy the serenity of places like Arizona's Grand Canyon and parks in Hawaii.

    Let them take hot air balloons if an overhead view is so exhilarating. I find the view from the ESB to be more than adequate.

  94. They can also destroy the serenity of places like the east side of Manhattan, especially once we hit summer time and they are flying all up and down the E River at sunset, even worse when some of them come "inland" (supposedly prohibited by law) for closeups of the Chrysler Building. They are under the jurisdiction of some kind of NYC economic development commission,not a safety or environmental board, and the governing body seems loathe to restrict them.

  95. Flight routes aren't prohibited by law. Helicopter tours from the Downtown Heliport have voluntarily agreed to a route over NY Harbor and along the Hudson River. Flights from NJ can do whatever they please, since the FAA controls the airspace and hasn't imposed any restrictions. NYC elected officials, and the Economic Development Corporation, support this industry wholeheartedly and have, to date, not done anything that would seriously affect its ability to make money-- so the overland flights, and the nonstop water route flights, are fine with them, despite the well known safety hazards and other negative impacts.

  96. Boarding any aircraft with NO doors and being secured in one's seat with some kind of harness which can only be freed if cut with a knife in case of an emergency evacuation defies logic and all safety regulations. I am truly mystified how these sight seeing companies continue to operate with such blatant disregard for the safety of it's passengers. Forget the waiver - that is very cold comfort, if any comfort at all, to the loved ones of the five deceased passengers.

  97. Just wait to see the subpoena of emails and txts in court as to why NYONAIR decided to go with harnesses without a quick release mechanism. THAT should make for an interesting hearing!

  98. They should be required to have a better harness system with a quick release system. Helicopters are top heavy because of the engine's location. They should have pontoon landing gear instead of skids. I hope the NTA or NYC institutes some revised safety standards because of these deaths.

  99. When the pilot survives, and the passengers die, lawsuits can’t be far behind...

  100. The pilot knows the equipment better, its not a mark of failure that he survived.

  101. In virtually all the copter crashes in NYC (the notable exception being the 2009 crash in the Hudson involving a copter and a small plane) the pilots have survived. I assume that is because they have more experience and truly know what to do do in an emergency, unlike the passengers, who have just had a quick safety video that they probably didn't pay any attention to.

  102. Good Lord, I remember when they were taking off and landing atop the (then) Pan Am Building. Until the day of the horrific 1977 crash. Helicopters, like guns, should be for police and military only.

  103. I look at the pictures of these young sons and daughters - and my heart goes out their parents,their brothers and sisters and loved ones - surely we can discuss the liabilities and lawsuits later. Now is the time to bless their souls. This is so very sad. And, the pilot is also very young and will have to bear this tremendous burden for the rest of his life.

  104. I've flown that particular flight last November with FlyNYON and I can tell you that you are not allowed anything on board but your camera and the camera is thethered to your harness (you're not even allowed lens hoods or caps). If anything maybe someone's strap caused this but not a bag (unless rules were bent). Real tragedy.

  105. So the harnesses, in effect, killed the passengers. That was my gut feel before even reading this article. I have a son their age. My heart breaks for the families. I offer my deepest condolences. These were cruel and needless deaths. I hope they sue despite any waivers that were signed.

  106. This is why I never wear a seat-belt, on planes, cars, amusement park rides, you name it. It's better to ride free and be able to get out, than to be trapped in one of these death machines should things go wrong.

    Maybe this horrific incident will be the straw that breaks the camels back, and will catalyze some healthy skepticism towards our draconian and idiotic seat-belt laws, which mainly exist to help the police wage a non-stop war of revenue collection against people with common sense and a sense of liberty. Like vaccines, seat-belts are one of societies' cruelest tricks. But like with vaccines, it will take horrific accidents like this to get people thinking clearly on the matter.

  107. As an attorney who litigated products liability injuries from auto accidents, you would wear a seat belt to bed if you witnessed the carnage I did, that can happen in an auto accident when you're not wearing a seat belt.
    PS: It included decapitation of minors sitting un-belted in the front seat of vehicles.

  108. no Seatbelt - seriously! we"ll be reading about you soon!

  109. @ Butch-

    Seatbelts are quick-release devices, the release a manually activated latch. These poor people might as well have been trussed and hog-tied to the helicopter’s skids.

    The corporate veil protecting the owners from criminal liability should be pierced. They should be tried for negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

  110. As a military aviator we were constantly trained for the worst case and this situation fails the giggle test by any imagination. Every restraint is quick release except cargo and still people die. Imagine the panic of the engine going quiet, hearing the pilot call "may day", suddenly auto-rotating down into the obviously cold water, then the shock of hitting the water, starting to sink, then flipping over upside down and all around going dark and disorienting. A knife to cut the harness...what knife? where? how?...are you kidding? I expect the company is doomed and rightly so.

  111. I am not sure why you would call military harnesses quick release - you have to rotate and punch the release and then extract yourself from the harness around your legs and your upper torso.
    This is why you train with a Dilbert Dunker so that you don't drown trying to do a reasonably complex maneuver.
    I would not expect any untrained person could extract themselves from any 3-point harness system without practice.

  112. Agree completely - as a fellow military aviator and ATP rated helicopter pilot and flight instructor. We were trained repeatedly for dynamic egress in a ditching helicopter - it tales training and skill. The young pilot in command of this aircraft was also making $20 per hour and was working his way up as a professional pilot in a fairly entry level job. Just doesn't add up given the risks.

  113. I just don't understand why he chose to put it down in the drink when he could have put it down in the park. One gives the passengers a chance, the other doesn't. Then again, as a pilot myself (fixed wing), I do realize that these decisions are much easier to make in front of my computer.

  114. The helicopter tours in NYC should be band because there are to many risk factors involved in a crowded city. How many more lives have to be lost in tragic accidents.

  115. Does anyone really think safety will win out over greed? The only time I remember these flights along the Hudson being banned was after 9/11. And even a terrorist attack did not stop these companies for long.

  116. So sad for the people who died. I flew on that same helicopter a month ago, same license.... can’t believe it!

  117. A great tragedy. A waste of young lives. A lifetime of sorrow for their families and friends. When is NYC going to properly regulate and license these helicopter companies, if not ban them outright altogether?

  118. The notion that companies are allowed to fly open-door rides with people who simply don't have the training to react in an emergency situation is the thing that's wrong here. If the only way for these sightseeing/photography tour companies to make money is flying these risky trips, they should be shut down.

    A harness system with a quick-release system is just trading one problem for another. How long do you think it would be before someone released the harness to get "just a little closer" and tumbled right out the door? A day? Maybe a week?

  119. I recall there was recently another sight-seeing helicopter crash a month or two ago out in the Grand Canyon.

  120. As a veteran aerial cinematographer, no pilot EVER ALLOWED me to harness myself, even as I hung outside with centrifugal forces pulling me away. YOU CAN walk away from a crash, but harnesses make it impossible. A larger discussion needs to happen:

    • This is Liberty’s 3rd disaster. On Aug. 8, 2009, Liberty's craft collided with a plane over the Hudson, killing 9. Investigators determined the helicopter was flying too high.

    • On July 7, 2007, Liberty's chopper carrying 8 dropped 500 feet into the Hudson, but an off-duty EMT aboard the craft helped everyone escape.

    How has Liberty stayed in business? Who implements safety regulations? The pilot said someone hit the fuel cut-off switch with a piece of gear. Really? From Liberty's website: "With the exception of cameras, there are no personal belongings permitted on the helicopter. Lighters, keys, hand bags, knapsacks, makeup and any other personal belongings are not permitted on board the helicopter." If the cut-off switch's easy access is the line between life and death, then the craft's manufacturers are in for legal action, too.

    Let’s be clear: Liberty is a NJ company. You pay huge amounts of money for mid-air thrills, annoying City residents with noise, polluting air, and putting lives at risk. This activity is frivolous, and also demonstrates how vulnerable our City is if one of these crafts were boarded by people with bad intentions.

    With deep sadness, my heart goes out to the families, and the 1st responders.

  121. Liberty got their money from these now-dead customers. Now they will spin their "concern" about what happened.

  122. I hate to say this, but this was inevitable. Many of us who live along manhattans river fronts, or even worse near helipads, have had to endure and bear witness to the increase of helicopter traffic and its deafening assault on our senses. The bottom line in helitours is greed. Unfettered greed coupled with a grossly under regulated industry. Tax payers and residences on the ground have to pay the price of the ongoing air and noise pollution, and naive and trusting passengers in situations like this, pay a mortal one. The FAA has pushed these noise monsters to fly over water, and outside that the industry is pretty much left to monitor itself. Those of us who have tried to speak up, along with advocacy groups such as Stop the ChopNYNJ, have faced stonewalling and an deep unwillingness for the city to change things. All because of money.

  123. I agree with your assessment. However, it could be argued, living in NYC itself might be a form of greed.

  124. I visited Governor’s Island last summer, and the island is a great resource for the city, but at about 2:30 pm he three of us together looked at each other, realizing that for the first time in three hours, the sound of a helicopter was not spoiling our visit. As a frequent visitor to NYC I think on balance the helicopters hurt the visitor experience. It is an experience for 0.001% of the visitors that harms the experience of the balance of visitors and all of the residents.

    And on the safety issue, in the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico folks who are going to fly in choppers do onshore training where the replica chopper is immersed in water, inverted, and the trainee must escape to be certified.

    I have ridden a helicopter from Newark to LaGuardia and it was a great time saver. But the doors were on and the flight was at safe altitudes and directly flown.

  125. biking on the hudson greenway, many times I have been hit in the face with water from a helicopter landing right by the greenway & 30th st.
    if that doesn't say "too close" I don't know what does.

  126. Why is anybody but first-responders in low-flying aircraft around NYC? Are you supposedly smart urban dwellers crazy???

  127. Because the FAA says Ok (it has exclusive airspace jurisdiction), and because NYC elected officials won't push back against it.

  128. I see no urban dwellers endorsing these flights. We want safer skies. For our law enforcement, first responders, and even photographers. Sounds like professionals who fly, including photographers, think safety was not close to being sufficient here.

  129. Do no do not sell,a helicopter to anyone under 21. Next, ban all helicopters. Who’s really NEEDS a helicopter?

  130. For many of who live in the path of these noisy helicopters that passed by every 3 to 4 minutes knew that this was an accident waiting to happen

  131. I frequently travel to remote areas which require private fixed wing and helicopter travel.
    I advise the company handling the flights in advance that before I board any aircraft I want to see the maintenance logs of that particular aircraft and discuss with the pilot his experience (# of hours for that particular aircraft) and his assessment of the maintenance logs. If they give me any lip I tell them I will take my business elsewhere.
    Several times I after examining logs and discussions with pilots I have cancelled the flight both here in the US and in South America due to missing or incomplete information, hesitation or lack of knowledge on the pilots part.

    It is up to each and everyone to be an educated consumer. Ask the charter company what type of aircraft they will be flying when making the reservations and do some research based on # of hours flown & maintenance requirements
    It may sound complicated but it really is not to bad...besides your life may depend on it.

  132. That’s good but these were tourists who might not have understood the importance of what you said.

  133. He was talking about remote areas, where overseeing by agencies is hardly possible.

  134. Sierra you are 100% correct, pardon my error.

    Alan with small charter aircraft the level of oversight especially in remote areas may be lax. The level of technical maintenance for these types of aircraft are not what I would call "highly technical. However I do agree with your opinion regarding the failings of our elected representatives.

    Vivien agreed however if but one person who read my post also happened to board a small charter aircraft in the future chose to follow my advice maybe their choices may be positively altered.

    CitizenTM appreciate the clarity and correct input

  135. Sight-seeing helicopters in NYC:

    2009: 9 fatalities
    2011: 1 fatality
    2018: 5 fatalities (to date, and totally preventable in this case)

    As much as I love aviation and trust the industry, it's perhaps time for the FAA to review the regulations on pilot training, airspace control, and passenger egress training for these types of flights.

    While still much safer than automobiles (and apparently even trains these days) they don't enjoy the safety level of the airlines, which are heavily regulated.

    New Yorkers (even tourists!) deserve it. My heart goes out to those families. This was a preventable tragedy.

  136. In 2011 there were 3 fatalities, all from the same crash (one person died on scene, two others died in the following weeks at Bellevue).

  137. Regulations! Heck, no! This here's America, and we got Freedoms!
    (sorry, my best impression of anti-government blather)

  138. Any time you try to take away merchants' money - no matter how dangerous a business they run - you can expect a screaming, whining diatribe plus political payoffs akin to trying to strip an AR-15 from " former NRA president Charlton Heston's cold, dead hands."

  139. This is going to happen again unless NYC bans single-engine helicopter flights around Manhattan. They are currently flying over water and densely populated areas with absolute faith placed in a single engine. The contingency for engine failure for revenue flights around the city cannot be autorotation into water (or structures). That is often a deadly outcome. We must require the redundancy of a second engine.

    There are light twin-engine helicopters available to these operators. Eurocopter offers the AS355, a twin-engine variant of the AS350 involved in this crash. Bell Helicopter designed and produced a twin engine variant of the 206/406 model commonly used for these flights but discontinued it due to low demand however a company called Tridair Helicopters continues to produces a twin-engine variant. If regulators required a twin-engine version for air tourism, that would create the demand and manufacturers would have reason to produce it. Make that the law and the industry will provide.

  140. The AS355 has been discontinued in production. The closest thing is an EC135

  141. I live in the Upper Ditmars section of Astoria, and in the summertime when I leave my windows open, often hear helicopters that sound like they are originating somewhere in the vicinity of LGA airport. I too find them very irritating to have to listen to, as they travel not that far over our homes in Upper Ditmars.

  142. Lisa - did you actually read the article and follow the discussion here? You've been inconvenienced, but the thread is about preventing fatal air crashed.

  143. You live next to an airport, what do you expect to hear?

  144. While this helicopter went into the river, others fly over apartment buildings and sidewalks packe with people. My sympathies go out to the victims of the crash but their decision to board the aircraft included an acceptance of a certain amount of risk, neither I nor others on the ground should have to pay for the profits these companies amass by shouldering a similar risk. Helicopters shoukd be banned except for emergencies over residential areas.

  145. I think they're called rotors, not propellers. No?

  146. I think the article refers to the BOAT'S propellers a few times...that is the appropriate term. But are correct...a helo has rotors.

  147. They were referring to the boat propellers.

  148. The propellers are on the tugboat. I had to read it a few times to understand, too. The tugboat had somehow secured the helicopter and kept it from sinking to the bottom of the river, but the rescue divers could not get near the helicopter while the tugboat propellers were still operating. They asked the tugboat crew to cut the boat's propellers in hopes of being able to approach the helicopter and reach the victims.

  149. Helicopter tourism should simply be banned. It's noise, it's dangerous, and we the tax-payers have to bear the brunt of the costs while those who run these business reap profits and face few penalties. My sympathies to the victims families.Maybe another business model can be in place, something like rent a drone with a camera, you get to keep the flight files and you can post. A kind of virtual aerial experience without the noise, the smell, and the danger. New York City isn't the grand canyon....

  150. Maybe a quick release seat belt is not a good idea when flying with no doors? It might accidentally be unfastened. If it were a movie shoot, the camera operator would be rigged safely into the seat with an assistant watching out. That's how you shoot out of a helicopter with no doors. Amateurs are running the world now.

  151. Hearing of the safety protocols (or lack thereof) on this flight reminds me of an experience I had on the ferry boat that goes from somewhere near the FDR in the 30s or so, and takes passengers to Sandy Hook beach in NJ.

    The one time I took that ferry boat, it was packed. One of the first things I do when I get on a boat is to understand where the lifejackets are located. When this boat disembarked, I realized that they'd made NO announcement about where the lifejackets were. So I found an employee and asked 'can you tell me where the lifejackets are located?' The guy said 'um yeah, they are up on the front end of the boat in a white box.'

    So I go up to the front of the boat and....I wasn't seeing any lifejackets readily visible. So I asked another employee standing nearby. I said 'yeah, where's the box that has the lifejackets?' The employee pointed to a white box directly ahead.

    Well I SAW that white box he was pointing to.. Not only did the completely enclosed box have a PADLOCK on it but....there were about 20 bicycles piled up against the side of that same box. Wowie. You talk about a tragedy waiting to happen?! Once I returned home from this trip, I reported what I'd seen...I think it was to the Port Authority...and I also noted what I'd observed in a Yelp review. Sadly however, I suspect nothing was changes in safety protocol made...

  152. Yeah, I've seen this more than once elsewhere also. Guess they do not want the life jackets stolen???? Truly a tragedy waiting to happen.

  153. This is my second post. In the first, I concluded by writing that beside being a wasteful and dangerous activity, imagine if a crafts was boarded by bad people with bad intentions.

    Now that the helicopter companies have shared the fact sharp knives are provided "to cut through harnesses," they might as well make even more money by discarding their metal detectors, since all necessary terrorist weaponry will be provided at no extra cost.

  154. Helicopter 'flight-seeing' is a horrendous environmental burden on citizens and visitors alike...and has now led, again, to this terrible loss of life.

    These anti-civic vehicles thunder up and down our waterways almost unceasingly in clement weather, making a visit to Governors Island or the Statue of Liberty into a live-action scene from Apocalypse Now...all that's missing is the Wagner soundtrack blaring from on high.

    Those of us enjoying the splendor of our revivified waterfronts are subjected to unending, soul-destroying noise and pollution for the ephemeral delight of a tiny handful of visitors who can afford the ticket to ride...whilst employing a minuscule proportion of workers involved in the tourism trade.

    These aircraft are an egregious assault on all who live, work and breath in all that is New York City...and should be brought to an immediate end.

    Save lives, save our sanity.

  155. How many tour helicopters have crashed in NYC, the Grand Canyon and in Hawaii. I would never take a helicopter tour as they appear to fall out of the sky on a regular basis. Why take the risk, there are so many other great ways to enjoy NYC, the Grand Canyon or Hawaii than in a noisy, death prone vehicle.

  156. Safe and rational experiences in those situations are much less Instagrammable.

  157. Five people died a horrible death, and all some people can comment on is helicopter noise pollution and headaches from the overhead assault?

    Empathy, anyone?

  158. I know - I am absolutely appalled by those comments.

  159. All 5 passengers drowned and the experienced pilot lived? That pilot had an absolute obligation to unharness those people and did not get even one out? Investigate manslaughter charges.

  160. Initial reports stated the pilot blamed the passengers for the accident (their "luggage" touched something and the copter went down). If he tried to blame his mistake(?) on the passengers, that would not make him such a stand-up guy.

  161. I've been told school buses don't have seat belts because they're too expensive. Always follow the money.

  162. 1. The pilot had a harness that was easier to release versus the passenger harnesses.
    2. As someone who finished the NYC Triathlon during daylight, I can tell you from personal experience that the currents in the Hudson River are strong, and the visibility is poor-- even during daylight. Same goes for the East River.
    3. As someone who spotted swimmers in a swim around Manhattan race, I have personally watched strong swimmers stay in the same spot for 5+ minutes as they fought East River currents.
    4. If you read some of the other comments, a number of military pilots have commented that it is extremely difficult to escape from an upside down helicopter. Even when they train for escape in a swimming pool, they have safety divers nearby since it is an extremely stressful situation.
    5. As someone who saved someone from drowning, and almost drowned herself in the process, it is not easy to save someone from drowning. In my case, the girl I was trying to save tried to get on top of me and was struggling so much we both went under water several times--and this was in a swimming pool with no currents, during the day.
    The pilot is not Superman. The water temperature in the East River is about 40 degrees. It is doubtful the pilot had the physical capacity to rescue his passengers without appropriate gear. Indeed, NYPD SCUBA divers had trouble cutting the passengers out of their harnesses--and they were in cold water wetsuits and obviously were using underwater breathing apparatuses.

  163. How in the world could they harness these kids in with no way of escape? Horrifying. I can't imagine their end was pleasant. As scary as it was in there, it would have been charitable of the pilot to hang around long enough to unhook them.
    In addition, to all the people commenting here about how the noise bothers you, maybe save that for another time and forum. This is a tragedy.

  164. The is what removing "Regulations" looks like

  165. Many regulations result from lessons learned by the loss of life and injuries and are designed to reduce the chance of future deaths and injuries. Business hates these regulations and the cost they impose because they care more about their profits than the lives of people both customers and workers. Sadly, many people get sucked in by business propaganda and support politicians, almost always Republicans, who want to cut "expensive" regulations. Talk about dupes!

  166. Why didn't this company care enough about customer safety to proactively prevent this situation? I see this as yet another example of a complete breakdown of ethics in the bu$iness culture of this country. Only government can force some sort of proper behavior with regulation--and enforcement of that regulation.

  167. Those poor people. I'm so sorry for their families and friends. What an awful way to go.

  168. having the doors open is probably the safest thing. imagine trying to get those doors open with the helo inverted and sinking. also if the airframe is at all bent the doors might be jammed. so a better harness system and some flotation for the helicopter to keep it upright on the surface are a better safeguard.

  169. Wait, five passengers were killed when a helicopter without doors splashed into the East River.
    How did they get in if there were no doors?

  170. no closing doors

  171. Having no doors in this instance means that they removed the side doors so that these photographers could lean out and take pictures. Otherwise, if they were flying from point a to point b in the city on a normal flight...they would have the side doors on for comfort...

    One thing I have not seen mentioned here...having the doors off makes the aircraft "dirty" in terms of its ability to already fully loaded helo with the doors OFF has a harder time maintaining flight than a fully-loaded one with doors ON.

  172. I can’t believe people even answered you. Smh.

  173. harnesses are typical on helicopter flights with open doors, but common sense says to put the quick release mechanism in front at the waist so a quick escape is possible. what is surprising is that the passengers were still strapped in. the multipoint harnesses should have been release as soon as the helo went inverted.

  174. July 2007: a sightseeing helicopter makes an emergency landing in the Hudson River after its engine malfunctions

    August 2009: a sightseeing helicopter collides with a private plane over the Hudson River, killing a total of nine people

    October 2011: a helicopter crashes into the East River, killing two and injuring four others.

    Perhaps most infamously, in June 2005 there were two helicopter crashes in just four days on the East River, in which a total of 14 people were injured.

    The City has continually refused to disclose the exact dollar amount that these sightseeing tours add to City revenues (suggesting that it is smaller than supposed), and the PTSD-inducing noise created by them is also an issue. But safety is primary.

    There are already any number of “legitimate” copters flying around: NYPD, news, weather, even commuter flights from heliports to NYC-area airports. Adding a tourist flight every 4 minutes, 9 hours per day, 7 days per week is simply a recipe for disaster.

    As a related aside, it is beyond outrageous that, despite the events of 9/11, there is still no regulation of the airspace below 1,000 feet above New York City skies. Will it take the crashing of a helicopter onto Manhattan streets, possibly killing both passengers and pedestrians, to get the City to end this unnecessary danger?

  175. I cringe when I read stories like this , they had no chance , so many errors . I regularly take helo trips offshore , to be able to fly in a helo offshore in Uk you most prove competency in exposing from upturned helo at night , which is practiced in a dunker , ( swimming pool with helo can that is dropped into water and diverted upside down in darkness , you have to release your harness and find nearest escape , I can tell u many people that come to refresh every 4 years find it challenging . we also wear immersion suits and life jackets ( manual inflation ) after exit , also we have EBS a emergency breathing bottle with a minute or 2 of air to aid escape . I just cannot believe there tour companies have little regard for there customers ! , were they really carabinered in ! , they had no chance .

  176. Another instance when "thoughts and prayers" don't work.

  177. Utterly tragic.
    God help the devastated families left behind, and all the first responders.

  178. As a professional photographer with an emergency response agency who has flown many times tethered in with the door open I’m stunned by the details of this tragedy. Tethering non-professional tourists into a helicopter flying over a body of water with the doors off and no safety personnel or active system in position or place to effect an emergency egress is outrageous. Can you imagine the American flying public tethered into their airline seats helpless to extricate themselves in even the most basic emergency? What a colossal safety and common sense failure both by the company and those with oversight responsibilities.

  179. My neighbor is a veteran search and rescue pilot. He recently told me he had to do his periodic "dunk" training, to practice exiting from a submerging, inverted helicopter. He said that even after all these years it is a nerve-racking, sometimes harrowing experience. The practice, simulated in a specially equipped pool, is deemed so risky that it is closely supervised by divers underwater who will intervene if the trainee cannot free him/herself.

    That's the degree of caution taken in a professional working environment. What chance would untrained sightseeing passengers have?

  180. Remember that scene from "An Officer and a Gentleman"?

  181. I fly hang gliders a lot of the time along costal dune type sites and the thought of a water landing is downright frightening and I'm an excellent swimmer in good shape. I too have a knife and have thought many times how would I use it and how to stay calm and not panic while I cut myself free while trapped under the Hang glider while under water. These poor people did not have a chance.

  182. For those suggesting quick release devices, remember an inadvertent maneuver with a poorly designed harness might release a passenger when there's no emergency. Any restraining device should be heavily tested, regulated by suitable experts, and the passengers fully informed with opportunity to practice before takeoff. Also, those at the top of these companies need to have personal and perhaps criminal liability in the event of an accident.

  183. I would like to refer the NY Times to the 2010 NSTB Safety Recommendation A-10-129-130 regarding the vulnerability of the AS350 to inadvertent movement of the Fuel Flow Control Lever (and associated Emergency Fuel Cut-off Lever) by passengers and luggage. This was a known issue that causes a fatal crash in 2008 and a number of non-fatal crashes and incidents. The NTSB made recommendations to the FAA to require a design modification. As far as I know, the FAA never issued an Airworthiness Directive mandating those modifications. From the pilot's remarks today, I suspect this aircraft might have had those design vulnerabilities.

    The pdf A-10-129-130 is available on the NTSB website (cannot post links here).

  184. This comment should be a NYT Picks!

  185. I think the Circle Line ferries will see a surge in sightseers.

    I'm a white-knuckled flyer fan of the air crash analysis videos on youtube. It's unfortunate that mistakes by aircraft manufacturers, airlines, maintenance and flying crews, so obvious in retrospect, have killed thousands of people over the years, but the discoveries and recommendations/mandated changes from those crash investigations have made flying safer multiple times.

    I think of the cargo doors that used to blow off DC-9;, leaving small amounts of fuel in empty tanks (TWA Flight 100); and the weak, inadequate wheels Concordes used before the Paris crash.

    Let's hope all chopper flights become safer after this investigation is done. As I said, many crash reasons were stunningly obvious in retrospect, and it sure looks like quick release safety harnesses were something a five-year-old would have recommended. I imagine companies would hit the quick release in route and fly out open door. Gotta be a way around that.

  186. I think you mean TWA Flight 800.

  187. I think you meant cargo doors coming off DC-10's , not DC-9's .

  188. and I don't know what you mean by "weak, inadequate wheels" on the Concorde. that was not the issue in the Paris crash.

  189. Tragic and likely preventable. You do not have to be an engineer to see that the inflatable floats, if those are the yellow bags in the photo, are attached much too far below the center of gravity to be of any use except for simultaneous inflation over calm water. The craft is guaranteed to invert, and the history seems to show that they do. Harnesses are another story - preventing one hazard by adding another. Sadly, innovation can be extremely slow in the properly cautious aviation world.

  190. The inflatable bags should open before the landing, not after. The video of this crash doesn't seem to show the bags were fully deployed before the copter reaches the water. RIP to all the passengers.

  191. There are WAY too many helicopter flights in NYC. Most are either carrying tourist sightseers, or taking the 0.1% to the airports.

    Both are unnecessary.

    Helicopters burn an unbelievable amount of fuel. Try pushing a Toyota Camry sedan a quarter mile on level ground. Two able-bodied people can do it. Now try lifting up and carrying the car 1/4 mile -- 15 people couldn't do it even if the car had handles.

    Live or work along the East River? The constant roar of choppers is so bad you'll have to keep your windows closed.

    And Wall St and corporate bigshots shouldn't be given an easy way around NYC's decrepit roads and infrastructure. Force them to use it like everyone else, and maybe it might actually get improved.

    Finally, there's the lousy safety record. Do we have to wait until one crashes into an office building, school, or other crowded place?

    Ban the choppers!

  192. I saw the video as well as the pictures in this article. The cabin of the helicopter is intact, the landing wasn't too hard. Even the fact that it flipped upside down wouldn't alone be fatal. But it was those harnesses. I can't even imagine the realization right before the serious panic begins when you realize that you're inescapably tied to the sinking craft...

  193. It still might have been fatal even if they could escape from their harnesses - they're civilians, they're not expert in climbing out of an underwater helicopter. Underwater you may not know which direction is up, and which is down. The water is very cold, hypothermia sets in very rapidly.

  194. You have 10 minutes before hypothermia. The divers said they could have rescued everybody if not for the harnesses.

  195. I cannot believe this.

    First, my heart goes out to these victims. God bless their families. And I hope they do not hold this pilot for punishment. He could have been another "miracle on Hudson".

    In the oil industry, where I worked for 45 years - choppers are the backbone of moving folks around. I have flown in choppers all over the world.

    But the first thing we do is put folks through chopper crash landings.

    In Aberdeen at Robert Gordon Institute, we even recreate North sea conditions with rains, winds, waves in swimming pool etc. We are made to sit in a chopper module, it's lowered into water and then unhooked. It rotates like this one did. And we are supposed to escape. Of course, we all do.

    But first thing, once dunked in water, we grasp the harness clasp, ready to undo it. And then follow established procedures to evacuate either through blown out windows or an open door.

    But hand on the harness clasp is repeatedly stressed.

    Of course, tourists cannot go through such training.

    But it's beyond comprehension that a harness requires to be cut by a knife in an emergency.

    Even with my global experience, I would find it terrifying to do in an emergency. Sure, these adventure trips are one of those selfie trips for Instagram - but for regulators NOT to have considered its implication is mind boggling and worse, a deleriction of duty.

    And for heavens sake, let's not have a knee jerk reaction and close down this business - putting innocents out of a job.

  196. I was with you until the last sentence. Human lives have to come before job security! This is a leisure industry - no one needs to go up in one of these tourist helicopters. And if they're killing people on a regular basis, which they clearly are, shut down tourist helicopters.

  197. Putting innocents out of a job???

    Seriously. The pilots who take responsibility to transport folks in such unsafe conditions are not innocents. And the handful of people on the ground can find something else.

    To me this is manslaughter.

  198. It makes NO SENSE to allow these aircraft to fly over Manhattan. Too many updrafts, downdrafts, windshear, etc. with all those tall buildings jammed together. Stop it now!

    BTW- I don't live in Manhattan anymore, and don't have a dog in this fight.

  199. So this was one out of how many flight with how many companies ?
    There is more risk driving your own car or walking across a busy New York intersection.

  200. Does this mean usual passenger seatbelts in airplanes are not reliable? Is it because they can be unlocked by passengers themselves?

  201. Yes

  202. My guess is that these others were used because it was a "doors off" flight.

  203. Seat belts on planes primarily protect passengers from injury during; seat belts aren’t going to save anyone if the plane crashes.

  204. Main parachutes, as used by skydivers, must be able to be 'cut away', jettisoned, at a moments notice. To cut away a malfunctioning main canopy, takes much less than one second. And yet,, the connection is strong enough to withstand the many G's of opening force. The most common is called a 'three ring circus'. It is a masterful example of utter simplicity and reliability.

    That people were tied into a helicopter, such that only a knife could free them, or that the 'carabiner' was inaccessible behind them,,, ground all flights instantly. None should fly with that system, at all, or ever ever again.

    With so simple and effective a device as is the skydiver's shoulder connection, utterly secure and takes less than a second to release, I fail to see why any other lesser system has been, or was, or is in use.

    In this case, I'd say prosecute. What happened,, if reported accurately,, is just plain stupid and criminal. The skydiver's three ring circus has been in use for 50 years, there can be no excuse other than criminal ignorance or stupidity.

    And air bags under a helicopter? What 'genius' came up with that bit of stupidity. Of course it floated upside down. Any builder of row boats or canoes could have predicted that one. Land 50 helicopters in an emergency descent on those air bags and 49 will finish upside down.

    Ground all of them.

  205. I have been in a helicopter that made a water landing. If the pontoons (“air bags”) were in working order, and both of them inflated similarly and correctly, the copter wouldn’t have fallen on its side after it touched the water.

    This is just heartbreaking.

  206. Though, it also has to be a system which no passenger could accidentally release.

    As for the air bags, how were they tested? Would appear to be far below center of mass leaving a helicopter likely to flip over. Were they ever tested on anything other than a still water lake?

  207. Deanalfred,
    "Land 50 helicopters in an emergency descent on those air bags and 49 will finish upside down."???
    What you know about pontoons (deployable or permanent) on helicopters, wouldn't fill a thimble.

  208. I lived in Battery Park City for 10 years. The Hudson River Helicopter tours and their attendant roars were akin to having 18-wheelers driving through the skies. Thousands of New Yorkers basking along the banks of the Hudson enduring this racket for the sake of a few tourists willing to pay big bucks for an Instagram moment, and a handful of helicopter operators raking in the profits.

    I hope the safety issues grounds all such tours, even though the quality of life compromises endured by these tours affects far, far more people. That said, the loss of 5 lives is very tragic.

  209. "akin to having 18-wheelers driving through the skies" -- are you aware that 18-wheelers regularly drive through most NYC streets, along with buses, ambulances, garbage trucks, etc?

  210. The calls for banning tourist helicopter flights are ridiculous. As far as I know, this is the first significant accident involving a "doors off" flight, and while there have been incidents involving other tourist flights, fatalities are extremely rare. The safety record of Liberty Helicopters is somewhat troubling, and the companies that offer "doors off" flights should probably look at other options for securing passengers that would enable a quicker release, but statistically, you're safer on one of these flights than you are in your own automobile.

    Imagine if we saw endless news coverage of each and every car accident involving fatalities; the same poorly informed people who are screaming for these flights to be banned would probably want cars to be banned as well.

  211. Statistics won’t lessen the pain the victims’ families will endure.

  212. The lame "chopper travel is safer than driving" is to the aviation industry what "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is to the NRA.

    Helicopter accident statistics are much worse than commercial fixed wing, the industry is barely regulated, tourism flights cause significant air and noise pollution and the tourist/air taxi flights put residents under them at risk...

  213. Nice selfish 'me' response. These flights should be banned on the basis of noise pollution alone. You want a challenge? Climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

  214. I went to high school with Tristan in Reno, Nevada, where we’re both from. We have many mutual friends to this day. His sudden and tragic passing was a shock to hear about this morning for so many who knew and loved him. He was a loving and kind individual, as I’m sure the others were, as well. I am so saddened to hear this news.

  215. I’m really sorry.

  216. Shocking and heartbreaking. My sympathies to you on the loss of your fruebd.

  217. The passengers probably had no idea what was happening. One moment a daring copter ride. The next trouble, with possible safe landing on the inflatable base? Should they unbuckle? Is it time to get the knife? Everything happens too fast. By the time the copter hits the water and flips it is already too late. Upside down and underwater no one can find a knife and cut yourself out. These things need auto-releases, and even then it is tough.

  218. What a horrible way to die. How can strapping people in like that be legal?

  219. Where's the FAA? Flight tours, without doors, for civilians, seemed like a good idea?

    Even the Marines give you doors, or good low-bid GSA-approved harnesses.

  220. Sorry, MV-22 Ospreys routinely fly with the back ramp open. Marines do fall out.

  221. The Navy has extensive training program on escaping from a downed helicopter which has crashed in water. Part of the training involves simulation includes the helicopter simulator sinking upside down. I have been involved in not only teaching this training but having gone through it myself. And I can tell you that even if in a specially designed simulator, in a special pool with safety divers around, it is a heart pounding experience which you are glad to be done with. But it has successfully prepared aircrew occupants of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters to safely egress, in less than genteel crash conditions than this sightseeing helicopter went down. And the training is hours longer than this tour company's 10 minute brief, & you go through several runs, seated in different parts of the helicopter simulator, including the final heart pounding run, where you must put on darkened goggles, and plan your escape by just knowing and feeling your escape route. Although you may have one on you, you have an easy to toggle out of harness, no knife required. If the news report of a 10 minute video preparation is correct- and the requirement to have to use a knife to cut yourself free also true, I would say without hesitation, that this is criminal & was a fatal accident waiting to happen, as it just did. The company can never replace these precious lives, but the owners should pay for the rest of their lives for the suffering of these 5 soles' families.

  222. Condolences to all. As anyone who played in pool or bathtub might know, why not place the float near the rotor so the helo self rights -in case a still water landing is not possible?

  223. These five unfortunate people perished because of the helicopter tour operator's greed and total disregard to the safety and well being of their passengers. I am upset and cannot begin to imagine the horror these five people experienced as the last moments of their lives. I imagine lawyers will have a field day with this company. You can have a passenger sign all the releases you want, but the release does not mean you can operate in a careless manner. Tethering civilians by their back to a helicopter after they have received a questionable safety briefing is reckless, careless and shows zero regard to human life.

  224. It's ridiculous that these were doors-off helicopters. There's no good reason to stick one's legs out of a helicopter (if you want a thrill ride, go to an amusement park) and a small opening in a window can be provided to stick a camera lens through, although I got perfectly good photos shooting through the glass on a helicopter ride in Hawaii (with doors).

    The harness system is ridiculous. Who can cut through straps while in icy water and possibly upside down and panicked? I sure couldn't.

  225. I've been an avid rock climber for 14 years. The popularity of the sport has exploded over the last decade and a half. So too has the popularity of other sports that use harnesses: canyoneering, mountaineering, bungee-jumping, paragliding. This growth in popularity has brought advances in safety equipment, including a proliferation of different types and styles of harnesses based on the intended use, the build of the wearer, etc. This includes harnesses with quick-release mechanisms such as those worn by race car drivers and the riggers in sailboat racing.
    There's no reason why doors-off helicopters, carrying untrained tourists, can't be equipped with a better type of harness than one you have to use a knife to cut yourself out of in an emergency. That's ridiculous and, I suspect, the result of cutting corners to save money plus a cavalier attitude toward the potential risks/dangers.

  226. My condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this terrible accident. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to see any stricter regulation of these tours, or anything else, under the current so-called administration.

  227. nope this is the "anything and everything goes administration " also the :what are you going to do about it administration" it's really hard to go along with anything Trump when he insults my party and my beliefs every chance he gets, I really wish he'd knock it off and lead us all. He called democrats losers.. How can't I take offense to that? Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama,,, none were perfect but knew how to lead she WHOLE country. Not just one party.

  228. My condolences to the families.

    As a firefighter, I find it sadly notable that a Dallas firefighter was among the dead. We deal with straps and harnesses as part of our job. The breathing apparatus we wear while fighting interior fires feature a network of straps. Beneath that, we often have a safety harness to latch into an ariel ladder. They are the tools of our trade. So is something else: most firefighters I know carry a seat belt cutter (mine is on a ring in the pocket of my gear along with a punch for a car window) and we are well-versed in using them. Even after a relatively gentle water landing; that the firefighter passenger lacked the situational awareness to cut himself free and perhaps save others -- is tragic and notable. When I have flown on doors-off Blackhawk flights with the US military, they use the standard 5-point harness, designed for quick exit with a quick turn of the core piece, even when wearing bulky gloves. I have every faith in the NTSB and the FAA to say with some confidence: we will see these harnesses outlawed in the coming months. Flying in a doors-off helicopter is not unsafe per se. In this case, it appears a device designed for safety may have had the opposite effect.

  229. Unfortunately, the passengers were probably overcome with freezing cold water before they could try to cut themselves free. A regular civilian in an emergency is not like a Navy Seal trained to hold their breath for long periods while undergoing stressful situations underwater. This is so tragic. Gut-wrenching.

  230. There's no way (except if I was being airlifted in an emergency) I would go willingly on a helicopter ride (or any small aircraft for that matter).

    I still remember the tragic accident in NY that took the life of comedian/actress/traffic reporter Jane Dornacker. She had been in one previous helicopter accident but survived the first one, second not so lucky.

    I feel sad for these young people who died in the prime of their lives--for nothing. I can't imagine any thrill being worth it to take the risk of being harnessed in order to have an open door (unobstructed view). They probably didn't take that into account (who thinks about a remote possible accident?), plus they were unprepared for any emergency.

    It may have been a rumor, but I first heard the pilot blamed a passenger's "luggage" for bumping into some important button or copter part. I suspect the lawsuits have already been started on behalf of the families. It's a tragedy no family member should have to go through.

  231. Excepting anyone to be able to exit an inverted aircraft under water and be able remove a normal seatbelt let alone a harness and then exit is unrealistic. That is a supervised air force training procedure. These flights should have extensive exit procedures. I doubt they had a clue on how to remove their restraining devices. And they knew that once that aircraft hit the water.

  232. It was a slow "crash" (landing rather) so they knew it BEFORE they entered the water. . .

  233. Agreed. These tours seem to rely on lax enforcement of rules or no rules at all.
    Nobody should be allowed to fly in a helicopter who is not familiar with aircraft safety procedures. Putting yourself in danger is questionable but allowed. Putting everybody in the aircraft in danger because you don't know proper safety procedures is negligence bordering on murder. And this makes the pilot who is the "responsible person" in the situation most to blame for the tragedy. And should such tours even be legally allowed unless strictly regulated? Why is America so obsessed with the "right" to do stupid and dangerous stuff?

  234. My recommendation for tourists in New York City: walk! Walking is much more interesting and you see much more. Besides you memorize seen things much better.

    I still remember walking West on 51 Street East, passing St. Patrick's cathedral and coming left around the corner looking over Fifth Ave in the direction of the "Channels" of Rockefeller Plaza. Always a nice picture.

  235. Or, for a fabulous view, go to One World Trade.

  236. What has doors-off to do this accident? It seems the harness design and the proximity of the helicopter machineries are the real problem. In this case, it is the harness somehow shutting off the fuel switch, that means anyone can tamper with the copter. Doors-on or doors-off is irrelevant

  237. I assume, from reading the article, that a doors-on helicopter uses normal seat belts rather than strapping passengers in the way described for a doors-off flight. The five passengers died because they could not free themselves.

  238. With doors closed, a plane or helicopter may be able to stay afloat for a long enough period for people to free themselves and, possibly, rescue boats to get to them. This chopper sank very fast because of the open doors.

  239. Doors open mean that the passengers have to wear body harnesses and leashes that are anchored to the interior. You can't just unclick a seatbelt and get out. Additionally, with no doors in a water landing, the water will enter the aircraft very quickly. As we have seen, it was unreasonable to expect that untrained, unpracticed passengers could have freed themselves in the very short, tense, window of time they had.

  240. As a prior MH65 Dolphin Helicopter flight mechanic in the U.S. Coast Guard, I was shocked to see the pictures of the harnesses that the passengers use. We trained for egressing helicopters every year, and the knife we used for cutting straps was a last resort. The buckle that releases our 6-point harness was quite easy to release and become free, even upside down. We also have a small oxygen bottle with 2 minutes of air in case the egress takes longer than it should. I am surprised too that the passengers fly over water with no survival suits. In our dunker training, Helicopter aircrew members are put in a box with seats similar to the shape of a Helicopter, strapped in, and then flipped upside down underwater, where we must egress 3 Times, once with goggles that blackout our vision. It is actually quite expected that the helicopter will flip in a water landing, as there is a lot of weight from the gearbox and engines on top. Training similar to this would have been very beneficial to the passengers, not to mention an easy to unbuckle harness, not the death trap harness they were using.

  241. I absolutely agree. I have seen the Coast Guard rigs, straight forward, simple , and strong.

  242. First, we should ban helicopter flights for civilians, period. In a world of drones, we can get a birds eye view without the noise, pollution, and risk of manned helicopter flights. Particularly in NYC, the loud noises disturb millions for the joy of perhaps 5 people. If your meeting is so critical that you need to take a helicopter to get to it, just leave early and take a car. It's safer and more egalitarian to have to suffer through traffic with us "normal" folk.

    On a separate note, however, people should be able to measure and take their own risks. We don't need the government stepping in whenever five people die to tell all of us we cannot do something or take some type of risk. Nothing is more un-American than the theory that nobody should ever be hurt doing anything.

  243. JoJo, you ignore the fact that these things put others at risk as well. I'm think particularly of the first responders who had to dive into the icy water and were dragged 50 block down river by the current. It's really absurd to think you can get into an unsafe helicopter and expect be rescued by someone else's loved one if you crash. Cutting yourself might be a fine libertarian expression of individual rights, but dragging someone else to the bottom of the East river seems "un-American" to me.

  244. Either we can just not run helicopter tours around NYC, or we can occasionally have people injured and killed in helicopter crashes. There aren't any other options, as there is no way to fly helicopters all the time without having them crash now and then.

    But the crash rate is pretty low, compared to car fatalities and such, so I'm sure we're going to keep the helicopters flying and just keep having these crashes. And every one will be called a great tragedy, and a week later everyone not directly affected will forget all about it, just like last time, this time, and next time.

  245. Just like the gun violence we see almost every day. On the front page on Monday gone from the headlines on Wednesday.

  246. This is the typical "oh that can't happen" until it does. Anyone with the common sense of a housecat would see the danger of a doorless helicopter flying around a congested city with untrained tourists strapped in and only a little knife to escape that they never have used in any type of training scenario. How about the danger of unscreened passengers getting into the copter and trying to crash it into a building. Say that can't happen either huh? . That's one of the contributing factors to 9-11. The complacency.

  247. If someone told me that I would have to cut my way out of a helicopter with a knife if there was an accident, I would reply - Do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck?