The pilot of a private helicopter that crashed on the roof a 54-story Midtown Manhattan building Monday was likely trying to make an emergency landing, New York City authorities said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were quick to stress that the fiery helicopter crash atop 787 7th Ave. was not an act of terrorism, allaying fears among New Yorkers that the incident might have been intentional.
According to CBS News, authorities said pilot Tim McCormick flew the aircraft at a high rate of speed through rain and fog and into restricted airspace before crashing onto the roof a building in the Theater District near Times Square. Mr. McCormick, whom acquaintances described as an experienced pilot and firefighter, was killed in the crash. Mr. McCormick was the only person aboard the helicopter.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said the helicopter took off around 1:32 p.m. from the East 34th St. heliport, one of three commercial heliports in the city. It is unclear where Mr. McCormick was flying.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the helicopter was an Agusta A109E, a multi-purpose helicopter made in Italy by Leonardo S.p.A. The 19-year-old aircraft was linked to a real estate company founded by Daniele Bodini, an Italian investor.
Paul Dudley, the Linden, New Jersey, airport manager who knew Mr. McCormick, told CBS News he believes the aircraft must have had some sort of mechanical problem that forced Mr. McCormick to try to land on a high-rise roof to spare people on the busy streets below.
The crash triggered a two-alarm fire that consumed most of the aircraft by the time it was extinguished. The fire forced hundreds of people to evacuate the building into the street.
“If you’re a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9/11 … so as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes. But there’s no indication that that is the case,” Gov. Cuomo told the press.
New York City residents are becoming increasingly agitated by the ever-increasing helicopter traffic in and around the city. Many New Yorkers say the helicopters pose a risk to public safety, pointing to a spate of recent deadly helicopter crashes. Residents also complain about the constant noise the choppers make and the extra air pollution from all the exhaust.
The ride-hail service Uber will start offering its first helicopter rides next month, with eight-minute lifts from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The aerial ride, including Uber ground transportation to and from the helipads, will cost between $200 and $225 one-way.
Blade, another company that offers helicopter commuting services in and around New York City, sees its mode of transportation becoming increasingly affordable, with rides to the airport from downtown Manhattan costing as little as $70 – about the cost of a taxi ride.
In addition to the increase in helicopter commuter services, there is also a proliferation of helicopter tour companies providing scenic flights around the city. While aerial crashes are still relatively rare in the city, the upswing in air traffic stokes concerns among residents and safety advocates that helicopter crashes could become alarmingly common.