71° Good Afternoon
71° Good Afternoon

East River crash prompts FAA to ban 'doors off' helicopter flights

The ban takes effect immediately and covers doors off flights that have passenger safety restraints that cannot be “released quickly,” the FAA said.

A U.S. Army Corp of Engineer salvage team

A U.S. Army Corp of Engineer salvage team hoist the wreckage of a Liberty Helicopters tour craft out of the East River, Manhattan, Monday, March 12, 2018. Five passengers in a helicopter chartered for a photo shoot died after the aircraft crashed into the East River on Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Reacting to the death of five passengers in last weekend’s East River helicopter crash, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an interim order on Friday barring “doors off” flights like the one involved in the accident.

The ban takes effect immediately, according to an FAA spokesman, and will remain in effect until the agency has done “a top to bottom review” of rules governing such flights and any “misapplication” of safety rules that could “create safety gaps for passengers.”

The ban covers doors off flights that have passenger safety restraints that cannot be “released quickly,” meaning by a single action, the FAA said.

The Liberty Helicopters crashed during what was to have been a sunset photography flight; only pilot Richard Vance managed to escape and was rescued by a passing tugboat. The five passengers drowned after the AS305B2 helicopter turned upside down even though its flotation devices inflated. FDNY divers reported that they had to cut the passengers from their special seat harnesses.

The seat harnesses on the helicopter for the doors off flights have been criticized by some as being too hard to release in an emergency.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating the East River crash. On Thursday, the agency said it found no problem with the helicopter’s engine or flight controls. The NTSB said it was still examining the passenger restraint system and the fuel control levers. Vance told police that he believed a strap got tangled with one of the levers.

In recent reports, the Helicopter Association International said it had called for a halt in recent years to open door flights.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos