Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday revived his long-standing battle against a helicopter company he has condemned for dangerous practices — this time taking them to task for letting dogs take flight.
FlyNYON, a company offering doors-off helicopter flights, came under scrutiny last year when one of its flights ended with a deadly crash in the East River that killed five passengers.
But the company has continued to operate thanks to what Schumer claims is a legal loophole. And social media campaigns urging passengers to bring their four-legged friends aboard endanger both human and canine lives, said the U.S. Senate minority leader.
“That’s disgraceful, it’s dangerous — the dogs have had no say,” said Schumer at Sunday’s news conference along the East River. “When people go on these helicopters they have some say — the dog doesn’t have any say, and it makes things even worse.”
FlyNYON has a partnership with nonprofit Pilots N Paws, which links up pilots with animal rescue missions. The helicopter company has offered steep discounts on social media accounts for customers who use promotional codes, boasting that a portion of the proceeds go to the charity. Promotional videos from the company show dogs strapped into door-free helicopter rides, and customers reviewing the service rave that dogs are allowed on board.
“To know that the same company where five people died is now strapping dogs into the helicopters, for whatever, is outrageous,” said Schumer. “Strapping dogs in for dangerous door-off flights is just awful. We don’t want it to happen.”
Schumer’s office recruited a constituent, Michelle Krozy of Chelsea, to sign up for a flight with her 2-year-old Maltipoo rescue Winston. She was rewarded with a 50% discount, but her pup will not be taking flight, she said.
“It’s really awful — I would never do that,” Krozy said.
Schumer was joined by fellow Sen. Bob Menendez, and his crusade has been championed by both the Humane Society of the United States and PETA, who sent representatives to Sunday’s news conference to condemn the dog-friendly flights as cruel and inhumane.
In addition to calling on FlyNYON to stop offering chopper flights for dogs, the senators have implored the Federal Aviation Administration to crack down on the company, which they say skirts regulations by offering “aerial photography” services generally reserved for professionals — in this case, the flights are booked by thrill-seekers eager for a good Instagram shot.
The FAA declined to comment, saying the agency would respond to the senators directly.
FlyNYON posted a statement to Twitter touting the money their flights raise for canine rescues and claiming they are fully compliant with FAA regulations. The company also invited Schumer and Menendez to a meeting about safety.
A spokesperson for Schumer noted that because FlyNYON is currently under two federal investigations from the United States Department of Transportation Inspector General and the National Transportation Safety Board, the company is already meeting with federal agencies over the matter.
FlyNYON did not immediately respond to an additional request for comment.