Fatal NYC Helicopter Crash Probe Could Take 18 Months, Former Official Says

June 11, 2019

By Amanda Weston

There is a long investigation ahead into what caused a helicopter to fatally crash into a Manhattan skyscraper Monday, but for some New Yorkers, the automatic assumption was terrorism.

"Immediately all of us in New York are conditioned to the first thing that we're going to think of is 'is this terrorism, and is this another attack on our nation?'" Jarrod Bernstein, former Obama administration counter terrorism and community outreach official, told Cheddar Tuesday.

Authorities have indicated this was not the case.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash landing that killed pilot Tim McCormack, responders faced the challenge of getting to the site on top of the 54-story structure.

"They had to get up to the roof of this building, and that in and of itself is a complicated operation when the fire is on the roof," Bernstein said. "You've got to get your water all the way to the top of the building, put that fire out, see what victims can be saved ー if there are any save-able victims."

Bernstein is also a former chief spokesman of the New York City Office of Emergency Management. He told Cheddar investigators from agencies such as the NTSB, FAA, FBI, and NYPD now must document exactly what the rooftop scene looked like in order to piece together the chain of events that led to the crash, and the NTSB has the final word on what caused the crash. It could take up to 18 months to issue a final ruling.

"They run computer simulations. They interview everybody involved. They interview everybody who's ever flown that aircraft, the maintenance logs, the maintenance personnel, everybody who saw the aircraft take off, so it is a really deliberative kind of process," Bernstein stated.

The "nexus" of the investigation is why McCormack was flying at all Monday, when other aircraft were grounded, according to Bernstein. The weather in New York included rain, fog, and low visibility.

But the weather may not be solely to blame.

"Usually when you have a crash like this, there's not any one thing that's gone wrong," he said. "For something like that to happen, a lot of things have to go wrong."

Monday's crash followed several headlines over the past few months involving air travel in and around New York. Another helicopter crashed into the Hudson River in May; Uber announced a helicopter option from the city to JFK airport; and Blade cut prices to as little as $195 for airport transfers.

Bernstein said the question of how much helicopter travel in the city is enough is one that's been going on for at least a decade, and it's a question the city needs to discuss. He doesn't know if there's any one right answer.

He pointed out that there are "dozens, if not hundreds" of safe helicopter trips every year in and around the New York City area.

"We need to make sure that the rules are being followed," Bernstein said. "So if that helicopter yesterday shouldn't have been flying, then we need to be sure that when helicopters aren't supposed to fly, that they're not flying."

"I don't know that the answer is cutting out all helicopter flights or severely curtailing them. It might be as simple as just following the rules that are already in place. They're there for a reason, those rules."

For full interview click here.