FAA Grounds Helicopter Flights Like One That Crashed in New York

  • Tourist flight crash in East River killed five on March 11
  • U.S. agency questions safety of ‘doors off’ thrill rides

A helicopter is pulled from the East River in New York City on March 12, 2018.

Photographer: James Devaney/Getty Images North America

Federal aviation regulators are grounding “doors-off” helicopter tour flights in which passengers are tethered to the aircraft as a result of the March 11 crash in New York that killed five people.

The Federal Aviation Administration is taking immediate actions to “control or mitigate” the risks that passengers can’t escape such flights in the event of an emergency, the agency said in an emailed statement Friday. The agency is also conducting a "top to bottom review” of the rules governing the operations.

The tour-flight industry has increasingly offered people the chance to photograph landmarks like New York City or Hawaii from helicopters with the doors removed. In order to prevent people from falling, passengers are often roped to the helicopter using harnesses. The tether systems aren’t as easy to remove as traditional aviation seat belts.

Five people died March 11 when such a flight went into the East River. New York Fire Department divers had to cut the passengers’ bodies loose. Only the pilot was able to escape after the helicopter hit the water, capsized and sunk.

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