The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered an immediate halt on any “doors-off” helicopter flights, which don’t allow passengers to quickly and easily get out in the case of an emergency.
“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.
This was the case in a recent helicopter crash that took place in New York City’s East River, when four passengers were killed after being unable to remove themselves from the helicopter’s harnesses in time.
The pilot was the only one who could get out of the harness and escape. Rescue teams had to cut the helicopter's harnesses to remove the passengers from the submerged aircraft.
The FAA’s statement follows the incident, with the agency adding that they are also conducting a thorough review of the current rules for these types of helicopter flights and are urging that operators, pilots, and consumers all be aware of the risks involved.
Prior to Friday’s statement, the FAA said on Tuesday that representatives are looking into the use of harnesses created specifically for aerial photography flights.
The agency is now calling on all operators and pilots of these types of helicopter flights to take the appropriate measures to reduce risk to passengers.