FAA restricts ‘doors-off’ flights after fatal NYC crash

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered no more “doors-off” aircraft flights unless the passenger safety restraints can be quickly released in an emergency, the agency said.

The FAA also said it will conduct a top-to-bottom review of its rules governing these flights to make sure there are no additional safety gaps for passengers.

The announcement comes in the wake of the New York helicopter crash in which five passengers died. The helicopter, with the doors removed so passengers could take unobscured photographs, experienced engine problems and crashed in the East River. Its pontoons did inflate but then it flipped upside down and sank into the water.

The pilot was able to remove himself from his harness and escape, but all five passengers died from accidental drowning, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner said.

The helicopter was owned by Liberty Helicopters. The passengers bought tickets for the flight through FlyNYON, which advertised its harnesses and doors-off helicopter rides earlier in the day Sunday.

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.” It said it was referring all media inquiries to federal agencies.

FlyNYON said on Twitter it is fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB inquiries.

The FAA said Tuesday it was giving “urgent attention” to the use of harnesses specifically for aerial photography flights.

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