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New York helicopter crash: Possible flight rule violations under scrutiny

The deadly rooftop crash-landing of a helicopter in the heart of New York City in rain and fog on Monday raised immediate questions about whether the pilot, the lone fatality, violated rules governing midtown Manhattan’s tightly restricted airspace.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the pilot, whose helicopter crashed on top of a 54-story office tower on Seventh Avenue and burst into flames, would have needed approval from air traffic controllers at nearby LaGuardia Airport to fly in that vicinity.The privately owned aircraft for executive charter flights went down about 11 minutes after taking off from a heliport on East 34th Street, apparently en route to its home base in New Jersey, city Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Asked by reporters why the pilot was out flying through midtown Manhattan in the rain and low visibility, O’Neill said, “We’re not sure. That’s part of the investigation.”De Blasio said authorities were seeking to determine whether the pilot made contact with LaGuardia’s tower or other air traffic controllers before the crash.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that controllers “did not handle” the flight, but it remained unclear whether there was any communication at all between the helicopter and air traffic authorities. Under federal flight rules for New York City, a helicopter pilot departing from that location would normally call LaGuardia, across the East River in the borough of Queens, to inform controllers it was taking off, though it is not strictly required to do so.