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United States

Maloney, Nadler, Velazquez Lead Call for FAA to Stop Non-Essential Helicopter Flights over NYC

June 22, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), and Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), on June 21 sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell, urging the FAA to ban all non-essential helicopter flights over New York City. Joining the Members on the letter are Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04), Grace Meng (NY-06), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), and Jose E. Serrano (NY-15). This request comes after the June 10 crash which resulted in the death of the pilot after he crashed on the roof of a Midtown building.

In their letter, the members explain, “New York City has one of the highest rates of helicopter use in the world [and] is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, exponentially increasing the potential dangers of a helicopter accident in our city. The number of helicopter flights over New York City creates intolerable risks to the community and negative impacts on the quality of life of all its residents. There is no justification for allowing tourists to joy-ride through our skies, endangering people below and adding to the heavy burden of noise pollution residents already endure. Commuter helicopter flights impose risks to the community that far outweigh any benefits to the very small number of people who use them.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an interview last week on WNYC Radio with Brian Lehrer, publicly stated that he supports a ban of non-essential helicopters over Manhattan and that that he is working with the Congressional delegation on this effort.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Acting Administrator Elwell,

We write to you with renewed concerns about non-essential helicopter flights over New York City’s densely populated neighborhoods in light of the June 10, 2019 crash. As you know, earlier this month, an Agusta A109E helicopter owned by American Continental Properties LLC crashed on the roof of the AXA Equitable Building, killing the pilot and igniting a dangerous fire that caused a full building evacuation. Since 1983, we’ve had at least 30 helicopter crashes in New York City, with at least 25 fatalities, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. We believe it is time to end non-essential helicopter flights over our city and for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to immediately issue Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) instituting these safety restrictions.

According to published reports, the helicopter pilot involved in the June 10 crash was not certified to fly in bad weather. Although the weather was stormy, and visibility was poor, the pilot was still permitted to take off from the 34th Street heliport. The pilot then proceeded into restricted air space near Trump Tower where he crashed on the roof of the AXA Equitable building, that led to his death and caused a fire. Although the helicopter flight ended tragically for the pilot, it could have been far worse had the plane crashed onto the busy Midtown street below or into a building.

As you know, New York City has one of the highest rates of helicopter use in the world. Furthermore, New York City is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, exponentially increasing the potential dangers of a helicopter accident in our city. The number of helicopter flights over New York City creates intolerable risks to the community and negative impacts on the quality of life of all its residents. There is no justification for allowing tourists to joy-ride through our skies, endangering people below and adding to the heavy burden of noise pollution residents already endure. Commuter helicopter flights impose risks to the community that far outweigh any benefits to the very small number of people who use them.

In recent years, there have been multiple helicopter accidents in our city, many of them fatal. Some of the best known include:

  • May 15, 2019: A Blade helicopter crashed into the Hudson River
  • March 11, 2018: A Doors-Off helicopter crashed in the East River, resulting in the deaths of 5 passengers
  • June 30, 2013: A charter flight was forced to land in the Hudson River
  • October 4, 2011: A helicopter crashed in the East River, killing a woman
  • August 8, 2009: A Liberty Helicopter flight crashed into a small plane over the Hudson River, killing 9 people
  • July 7, 2007: A Liberty Helicopter unexpectedly dropped 500 feet into the Hudson River
  • June 17, 2005: A corporate helicopter crashed into the East River
  • June 14, 2005: A tourist flight plunged into the East River shortly after takeoff, resulting in one serious injury
  • April 15, 1997: A corporate helicopter crashed into the East River, killing a Colgate-Palmolive executive and injuring a second passenger and the pilot

After the fatal crash on top of the Pan Am Building in 1977 that killed five people, the FAA took the wise precaution of banning helipads in New York City. But unfortunately, with all of these recent incidents, the FAA has failed to sufficiently act. We are asking you to look at the history of fatal crashes and near escapes and to take immediate action to ban all non-essential helicopter flights and immediate institute TFRs on helicopter flights over New York City. It is within the FAA’s authority to issue this TFR, and we urge the FAA to act without delay.

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