Weather could play into the likely causes of this afternoon’s fatal crash of a 2000 model year Agusta A109E, N200BK, onto the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper. Pilot Timothy J. McCormack, 58, the sole occupant aboard, was killed when the light twin helicopter made what was characterized as a “hard landing” atop the 54-story AXA Equitable Center on West 51st Street and burst into flames.
The building’s rooftop, with an altitude estimated at 752 feet agl, did not contain a helipad. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and mitigated the resulting fuel spill within an hour and no one either inside the building or on the ground below was injured. Weather at the time of the accident, just after 1:43 p.m. local time, was reported as one-half-mile visibility with rain and fog, ceiling at 500 feet overcast, and a temperature/dewpoint split of 17/16C.
Amateur video shot just before the crash shows the helicopter flying in and out of clouds, at times erratically. The 11-minute flight originated at New York City’s 34th Street heliport. The helicopter was based in Linden, New Jersey (KLDJ) and was used primarily to transport Manhattan real estate executive Daniele Bodini, founder of the American Continental Properties Group, and the former ambassador of the Republic of San Marino to the United Nations.
Pilot McCormack was reportedly in contact with LaGuardia Tower shortly before the crash. He held a commercial rotorcraft license and a second-class medical with restrictions for eyeglasses for near vision. McCormack was characterized by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio as “someone who’s been doing this work for a while.” De Blasio said the helicopter should not have been flying in the area where it crashed due to airspace restrictions around Trump Tower, the New York City residence of the President. The FBI, FAA, and NTSB are all investigating.