Helicopter Pilot Got Lost In Clouds Before Fatal NYC Crash: Feds
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, NY — The helicopter pilot who died after crashing into a Midtown Manhattan high-rise was flying blind after getting lost in clouds, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary investigation into the crash.
Pilot Tim McCormack radioed into the 34th Street heliport about 5 minutes after taking off to request permission to return, but when he was granted permission to land at the heliport he radioed in that he “did not know where he was,” federal investigators said in their report. The helicopter then took on an erratic flight pattern, changing course and altitude several times before flying over Manhattan and hitting the roof of the AXA Equitable Building at 787 Seventh Ave.
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McCormack had waited at the 34th Street heliport for about 2 hours before taking off. He was “continuously checking weather conditions” and told heliport staff that he had a “twenty-minute window” to make a flight back to the Linden Airport in New Jersey, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report.
The report also detailed the extensive damage suffered by the helicopter. The aircraft was “severely fragmented and partially consumed by a post-impact fire,” after crashing on the roof of the AXA Equitable Building with damage suffered by the rotor blades, engines, fuel tanks, landing gear and other mechanical systems. The landing gear was in the “down” position when the crash occurred, according to the report.
McCormack had been licensed to fly commercial helicopters since 2004 and had racked up 2,805 hours of flight hours in his piloting career. He was also a certified flight instructor since 2018. McCormack did not have an “instrument” certification, which means he was not qualified to fly in severe weather that forces pilots to fly based off mechanical instruments due to obstructed sight.
Politicians demanded a ban on non-essential helicopter flight over New York City in the wake of the crash. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer also called for all helicopters to be outfitted with black boxes, data recording devices that can provide valuable information during crash investigations.
Read Patch’s breaking news coverage from the day of the crash here.