Published: Sun, March 18, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

In wake of fatal helicopter crash, FAA restricts 'doors-off' flights

In wake of fatal helicopter crash, FAA restricts 'doors-off' flights

Jack Harter Helicopters operates five helicopters, four of which are flown with the doors removed. They drowned after the helicopter rolled over and sank.

Preliminary findings show no flight control malfunctions or evidence of engine abnormalities. NTSB investigators have interviewed the pilot, but the agency didn't release any information about what he said.

The FAA banned "open door" helicopter flights involving restraints that can't be quickly released in the wake of the East River crash that killed five sightseers Sunday night. "Our passenger restraints can be released quickly in an emergency". Pilot Richard Vance was able to escape his and was the sole survivor of the flight.

"Doors-off" helicopter flights, where the doors are left open so passengers can get an unobstructed look at the scenery, have become a popular kind of tourism, with photo tours in a range of cities, but the restraints used to keep passengers safe can prove to be a concern in cases of emergency.

Liberty Helicopters posted a statement on its website after the crash, saying it is "focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and (National Transportation Safety Board) investigations". Rescue teams had to cut the helicopter's harnesses to remove the passengers from the submerged aircraft. Companies in Las Vegas, Hawaii and elsewhere advertise such flights. US aviation regulations exempt operations including crop dusting, fire fighting and "aerial photography or survey".

The group's president, Matthew Zuccaro, has made his opposition to doorless flights known in conferences and in industry meetings, Sweet said. "This includes using FAA-approved seatbelts with quick releases on our flights as well as conducting specific passenger safety training prior to each flight".

Liberty Helicopters has referred all inquiries to federal officials.

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