Midtown Manhattan helicopter crash: Pilot radioed he was lost, official says

A helicopter pilot flying in a rainstorm and fog on Monday radioed that he was lost and trying to get back to the East Side Heliport he took off from but couldn't find it, an official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The helicopter then crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper, killing the pilot.

The pilot, Tim McCormack, wasn't authorized to fly in limited visibility, according to FAA records. He was certified to fly under regulations known as visual flight rules, which require generally good weather and clear conditions.

NTSB investigators probing the crash are trying to locate any recorded data in the wreckage.

"Cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were not installed on the helicopter—they're not required," NTSB investigator Doug Brazy said. "However, there is instrumentation and helicopter systems that do have memory in them and the capability to record. We're searching for those on the rooftop right now."

The wreckage is highly fragmented. The fire that erupted after the crash charred or consumed most of the fuselage.

"We began our scene documentation focusing on preserving perishable evidence, such as wreckage condition, witness statements, records and video recordings," Brazy said.

A passenger who rode in the helicopter on an earlier flight the same day told the NTSB that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, Brazy said. The Agusta A109E helicopter flew the passenger from Westchester County to a heliport on the East Side of Manhattan.

The New York Times reported that the passenger was Daniele Bodini, the founder of American Continental Properties, a real estate company that used the helicopter for executive travel.

After dropping off Bodini, McCormack then waited at the East Side Heliport for a few hours because of the rain. He then reviewed the weather forecast and took off for Linden, New Jersey.

But about 11 minutes later, the helicopter crashed into the AXA Equitable building on 7th Avenue and West 51st Street in Midtown, sparking a fire and prompting workers to evacuate.

The AXA Equitable Center houses the bank BNP Paribas, the law firm Sidley Austin, the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, financial services company Stifel, and several other companies. 

Several helicopters and small planes have crashed in and around Manhattan, including some in recent years. Those recent crashes have prompted several officials to call for banning nonessential flights over Manhattan.

With The Associated Press