New York City Bans Doors-Off Helicopter Tours, but There’s a Major Loophole

Apr 18, 2018

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The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced Wednesday an amendment that bans doors-off helicopter tourism from operating out of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH).

Formerly, DMH was the only heliport in the city where tourists flights were allowed to take off. The new policy comes about one month after a doors-off  helicopter crashed into the East River, killing all five passengers on board. Before the amendment, there were no doors-off helicopter flights operated out of DMH — the policy will ensure that practices “will be codified as permanent policy,” according to a press release from NYCEDC.

The flight that crashed into the East River on March 11 was owned by Liberty Helicopters and operated by New Jersey-based FlyNYON. Following the fatal flight, a city-wide ban on doors-off helicopter tourism was put in effect. The FAA temporarily banned “doors-off helicopter flights that involved restraints that can not be released quickly in an emergency.”

“It is our hope that by officially banning doors-off helicopter flights out of New York City, we will help improve air safety within the five boroughs,” said NYCEDC President James Patchett. “We are thankful for the leadership and advocacy of the City Council on this important issue.”

The new policy, however, only pertains to helicopters in New York City and the five boroughs. Helicopters that take off outside of the city, like FlyNYON in New Jersey, can still fly with tourists in a doors-off helicopter — NYCEDC has no jurisdiction outside of the city limits. FlyNYON confirmed earlier today that they are still operating under normal circumstances and are still offering doors-off tours into New York City.

“By calling for today’s hearing of the Committee on Economic Development, we were hopeful that immediate positive safety changes would occur for helicopter aviation in the city,” said Council Member Paul Vallone, chair of the NYC Economic Development Committee. “This agreement is very welcomed news and takes a huge step in the right direction.”

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