Saturday 20 July 2019

Helicopter pilot killed after crashing into New York City skyscraper 'did not know where he was', say investigators

Mist and smoke cover the top of a building near 51st Street and 7th Avenue in New York, where a helicopter was reported to have crash landed on top of the roof of a building in midtown Manhattan on Monday. AP Photo/Mark Lenniha
Mist and smoke cover the top of a building near 51st Street and 7th Avenue in New York, where a helicopter was reported to have crash landed on top of the roof of a building in midtown Manhattan on Monday. AP Photo/Mark Lenniha
New York City police and firefighters arrive at the scene after a helicopter crashed atop a building in Times Square and caused a fire on the roof in the Manhattan borough of New York. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Emergency services first responders arrive at 787 7th Avenue in midtown Manhattan where a helicopter was reported to have crashed in New York City. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A view of 787 7th Avenue in midtown Manhattan where a helicopter was reported to have crashed in New York City. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
New York City firefighters suit up at the scene after a helicopter crashed atop a building and caused a fire in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Debris: Emergency crews survey damage on the rooftop of a building after the helicopter crash in New York City. Photo: Reuters
Bill de Blasio: New York City Mayor spoke of an ‘erratic’ flight. Photo: Reuters

David Shepardson

A pilot who died when his helicopter crashed atop a New York City skyscraper earlier this month had been flying erratically and said he did not know where he was shortly before the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report released on Tuesday.

The report said the pilot, who has been identified as Tim McCormack, 58, of Clinton Corners, New York, had asked air traffic controllers for permission to return to a heliport on East 34th Street and then changed course and altitude several times. He came within 500 feet of the heliport before reversing course and striking the 54-story AXA Equitable Center on Seventh Avenue in one of the city's busiest areas a few blocks north of Times Square. No one in the building or on the ground was injured.

The NTSB said after taking off from the heliport on June 10 McCormack had radioed that he did not know where he was.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this month to fly into tightly-controlled airspace above midtown Manhattan the pilot would have needed approval from the air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport across the East River in the borough of Queens.

McCormack was a commercial pilot who had flown for American Continental Properties since 2014 the company said.

The weather on the day of the crash had been gray and rainy and the report said McCormack had waited in the heliport lounge for two hours continuously checking weather conditions on a tablet computer. Before he departed for the Linden, New Jersey, airport he told staff he saw "a 20-minute window to make it out," the NTSB report said.

READ MORE: History of helicopter crashes in New York

The Agusta A109 helicopter had departed from Amenia in upstate New York earlier in the day with McCormack and one passenger and stopped for fuel in Poughkeepsie before landing in New York City. The passenger, who also was a pilot and was not aboard when the helicopter crashed, said the earlier flights had been uneventful.

The twin-engine, seven-seat helicopter was manufactured in 2000 and had been inspected last month. McCormack held a commercial pilot certificate with a helicopter rating issued in 2004 and was a certified flight instructor but he was not instrument rated.

READ MORE: Helicopter pilot in New York crash not certified to fly in limited visibility 

Reuters

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