FAA bans open-door helicopter flights after fatal crash

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The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered helicopter operators to suspend so-called "doors off" flights that require passengers to wear difficult-to-release harnesses.

FDNY officials said a central factor in the deaths may have been that the passengers could not escape their harnesses when the Liberty Helicopter chopper went into the water.

The move comes in response to a helicopter crash late Sunday night which killed all five passengers onboard besides the pilot.

Helicopter operators, pilots, and consumers should be aware of the hazard from supplemental restraint devices during an emergency evacuation during "doors off" flights. Rescue teams had to cut the helicopter's harnesses to remove the passengers from the submerged aircraft.

Liberty Helicopters posted a statement on its website after the crash, saying it is "focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and (National Transportation Safety Board) investigations".

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Open-door flights, sometimes called doors-off flights, offer sweeping, unobstructed views of landmarks and skylines, making them popular with tourists and photographers who often dangle their feet outside.

The FAA will order a halt to such flights that "involve restraints that can not be released quickly in an emergency".

Investigators said Thursday that they've taken apart the Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter's engine and found no abnormalities, along with no pre-crash damage to the helicopter.

The agency added that it will also conduct a review of its rules for such flights "to examine any potential misapplication that could create safety gaps for passengers".

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