Schumer calls for helicopter company to end ‘open-door’ flights after fatal East River crash

NEW YORK — Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on helicopter sightseeing company FlyNYON to stop flying its doors-off helicopters.

FlyNYON is currently under Federal Aviation Administration investigation after a helicopter; owned and operated by Liberty Helicopters, and chartered by FlyNYON; crashed into the East River in March, killing five passengers whose harnesses were difficult to disengage.

Schumer believes FlyNYON is the only company in the city to offer rides without doors.

“Flying like that defies common sense,” said Schumer. “It shouldn’t happen.”

Schumer said FlyNYON is not only still operating doors-off flights, but it was also advertising an Oktoberfest discount. Those ads have since been scrubbed from social media, but a customer service representative still offered us the coupon code when we called about making reservations.

We spoke to FlyNYON customers after their rides. They were unaware of the company’s history.

“You think they’d let us know before we go on it,” said Aisha Alireza, who is visiting with her family from Saudi Arabia.

“If I knew about it, I seriously wouldn’t have done it,” said Yousef Alireza.

Both passengers said they felt safe on the flight, but Aisha Alireza said the experience came with some discomfort.

“It just felt like I couldn’t breathe,” said Alireza. “It felt like somebody shouldn’t have been this high up without doors.”

FlyNYON released the following statement to PIX11:

“We have continued to operate in compliance with FAA regulations, and have made numerous safety improvements since March to ensure our customers have the best possible experience with FlyNYON. We await the results of the NTSB investigation.”

The Helicopter Tourism & Jobs Council released the following statement after Schumer’s press conference:

“The Helicopter Tourism and Jobs Council agrees with Senator Schumer, which is why our members — who fly only in and out of the downtown Manhattan heliport and welcome the City’s rigorous regulatory scheme - never fly passengers without a seat, doors are never removed, and passengers are not tethered in by harnesses. Members of the HTJC never put marketing ploys ahead of safety.”

Schumer said nothing can be legally done until the FAA completes its investigation. In the meantime, he said he has no problem with the company continuing to operate its doors-on flights, but wants the doors-off flights stopped immediately.

Correction: This story initially misreported which company owned and operated the helicopter that crashed. It has been updated with the correct information.