Accident puts helicopter safety under microscope

A helicopter on the Pier 6 helipad in Lower Manhattan.
A helicopter on the Pier 6 helipad in Lower Manhattan.
Shutterstock
A helicopter on the Pier 6 helipad in Lower Manhattan.

Accident puts helicopter safety under microscope

New York lawmakers are calling for a ban on all non-essential helicopters over Manhattan.
June 12, 2019

A helicopter accident in Midtown Manhattan on Monday that left one person dead has New York officials speculating about the necessity of commercial helicopter rides. “It is just too densely populated,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said of Manhattan and the federally regulated airspace above the city. “It is too dangerous and there is absolutely no safe place to land.”

Maloney’s call for a ban on all non-essential helicopters over Manhattan in the wake of this week’s accident and a spate of other fatal incidents, comes just after Uber announced the launch of its commercial helicopter service, Uber Copter, which will begin ferrying passengers between Lower Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport next month. “It was announced recently that Uber is going to open up flights in Lower Manhattan just to do flights from Lower Manhattan to JFK for $200 a pop to get people there,” New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” on Tuesday morning. “Is that really necessary? Is that safe?” Tourism helicopter flights were cut in half by the city in 2016, going from 60,000 per year to 30,000, but Johnson said the city may now need to consider further restrictions on commercial flights. “This wasn’t a tourist flight and the conversation is – do we need as many commercial flights?” he asked.

Uber wouldn’t be the only company affected if new restrictions do emerge. Blade offers on-demand flights that take passengers between New York City and area airports, as well as to and from popular locales like the Hamptons and Nantucket. Last month, a helicopter that was regularly used by Blade crashed into the Hudson River, though it was not servicing a Blade flight at the time, and the pilot, the only person onboard, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

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Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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