Timothy McCormack did not have the required certificate that would have allowed him to legally fly in poor visibility conditions and rely on instruments.
The pilot who died when his helicopter crash-landed on top of a New York City skyscraper was not licensed to fly in foul weather, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.
Timothy McCormack did not have the required certificate that would have allowed him to legally fly when the visibility was less than 3 miles and where he could use the instruments on his chopper to guide him through the gloom and rain that enveloped Manhattan on Monday, an FAA spokeswoman said.
The development came as National Transportation Safety Board investigators were trying to pinpoint what caused the deadly helicopter crash in Midtown Manhattan.
“Should the helicopter have been flying, I don’t know yet,” NTSB Air Safety Investigator Doug Brazy said at a press conference.
Brazy said they have questioned the passenger McCormack flew from Westchester County to Manhattan a few hours before the crash who told them it was an uneventful flight. He said McCormack was not in touch with air traffic controllers and that they are still trying to confirm reports the pilot made a radio call before the chopper went down on the rooftop of the building, which did not have a heliport.
McCormack was a veteran pilot but he was not “instrument rated,” said the spokeswoman, who declined to comment further and directed inquiries to the NTSB, which is expected to provide an update later Tuesday.
Al Yurman, a former air safety investigator with the board, said in an interview that federal regulators require all pilots to be instrument-rated when flying during the kind of bad weather that descended on New York City on Monday.
They must file a flight plan with air traffic controllers, he said, and they must know how to use a slate of instruments that can tell them what direction the aircraft is flying, for instance, or whether its wings and nose are level.
Without those instruments, flying in heavy clouds can cause “spatial disorientation,” Yurman said.
“It’s like putting a blindfold on,” he said. “Turn yourself around three times and see if you know where you are.”
The cloud ceiling at the time of the crash was 600 feet — or roughly the height of a 55 or 60-story building. The roof of the building on 7th Avenue that McCormack barreled into was 54 stories, fire officials said.
A lawyer for the company the helicopter is registered to, American Continental Properties, did not respond to requests for comment.
Paul Dudley, manager of the airport where McCormack was apparently returning to, in Linden, New Jersey, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday about the certification question.
But on Monday, Dudley described McCormack as an experienced and competent pilot — someone who was likely “overwhelmed” by the weather or a mechanical issue.
A review of FAA records shows that McCormack was a certified instructor and commercial pilot. The records also indicate that in October 2014, the helicopter he was piloting on a sightseeing tour was struck by a bird, causing minor scratches to a passenger.
McCormack landed the chopper “uneventfully” at a Manhattan heliport, according to the FAA record.
His brother, Michael McCormack, said that he likely “saved many lives” by putting his chopper “on the roof of a building.”
“It is a true act of heroism,” he said.
But the FAA said air traffic controllers “did not handle” McCormack’s flight — another sign that he may not have been following instrument flight rules, Yurman said.
“You have to be in radio contact with air traffic controllers,” he said.
City officials added that the section of Manhattan where McCormack crashed was under a “temporary flight restriction.”
“To go into that area a helicopter would need the approval of La Guardia tower,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Monday. “And we need to find out whether that happened or not. We do not know at this point.”
The crash led Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to renew a call for banning nonessential helicopters from flying over Manhattan.
In a statement, Maloney recalled other accidents in the city — including a tour flight that crashed into the East River last March, killing five passengers — and said the city could no longer “rely on good fortune to protect people on the ground.”
Barbara Kaiser, an aviation expert with the training and safety firm Rotor World, said that a ban on nonemergency air traffic was a good way to keep pilots without proper training from causing “collateral damage.”
“It could have been a thousand times worse,” she said.
New York GOP chairman Ed Cox and incoming chairman Nick Langworthy offered their condolences to the McCormack family.
“We were deeply saddened to learn the pilot who was killed in yesterday’s horrific helicopter crash,Tim McCormack, was the brother to our beloved Dutchess County Republican Chairman Mike McCormack. Tim’s life was cut way too short, but it’s clear he lived his last moments just as he did every day, committed to protecting others,” they said in a statement.
Trump Again Boosts a Baseless Conspiracy Theory, This One About Jeffrey Epstein
President Donald Trump on Saturday promoted a conspiracy theory linking the Clinton family to the death of multimillionaire and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, the latest instance of Trump propagating baseless conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
Trump shared a tweet and video from conservative comedian Terrence Williams that claimed without evidence that former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Trump’s 2016 presidential election rival — were responsible for Epstein’s death. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General Bill Barr said Epstein died in an “apparent suicide” while in federal custody.
As a result of Trump’s retweet, the video received more than 3 million views on Twitter by Sunday morning — more than triple Williams’ most recent videos. Both Trump and Bill Clinton were friendly with Epstein in previous decades, but Trump seized on the conspiracy theory Saturday in his latest dig at the Clintons. The tweet also falsely claimed that Epstein died while on suicide watch, even though Epstein had been taken off of suicide watch before his death.
Angel Ureña, a spokesman for the former president, called the conspiracy theory “ridiculous, and of course not true.”
“And Donald Trump knows it,” Ureña tweeted.
Trump promotes conspiracy theories
Lawmakers and government officials have called for inquiries into Epstein’s death, but none have gone so far as to even suggest that political rivals were behind it.
Unlike any other President before him, Trump has repeatedly promoted evidence-free conspiracy theories and falsehoods without regard for the consequences of his rhetoric.
Even before he was a candidate for President, Trump grew his following on the political right by promoting the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya — and not the United States — even after Obama released a birth certificate showing he was born in the US.
During his campaign for President, Trump spread a conspiracy theory linking the father of his then-GOP presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Cruz campaign denied it was Rafael Cruz and Cruz, a Texas Republican, responded at the time by blasting Trump as a pathological liar.
And in the second month of his presidency, Trump accused Obama without evidence of tapping his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. More than two years later, there is still no evidence that Trump’s phones were wiretapped during the 2016 campaign.
Trump has also repeatedly claimed without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election; has fed conspiracy theories about a “deep state” of government officials working against him; and has also falsely smeared former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and called the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign “treason” — among many others.
Trump was not the only official in his administration to promote the Epstein-Clintons conspiracy theory.
Lynne Patton, a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a longtime Trump family aide and friend, also gave voice to the conspiracy theory on her Instagram account earlier in the day.
Trump’s tweet promoting the conspiracy theory came about an hour after Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio warned of the dangers of spreading partisan conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death.
“Scrutiny of how #Epstein was able to commit suicide is warranted,” Rubio tweeted. “But the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts.”
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News Sunday defending the President. “I think the President just wants everything to be investigated,” Conway said when asked about Trump’s controversial retweet.
“Just the day before, there was some unsealed information implicating some people very high up,” she said, referring to the hundreds of pages of documents from a defamation lawsuit from one of Epstein’s accusers. Those documents were unsealed Friday by a court.
“I will say that there’s always this rush to (say), ‘We need transparency. We need accountability,’ when it involves fictional accusations like collusion with Russia to swing an election. This seems to be very concrete and that Jeffrey Epstein has done some very bad things over a number of years. So let’s continue to investigate that,” Conway said.
Democrats call out Trump for ‘more recklessness’
Still, two 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday called out Trump for retweeting the Epstein conspiracy theory and the President’s history of spreading baseless claims.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called Trump’s latest theory-peddling “more recklessness” and “dangerous,” telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that Trump has “been using the Clintons as a means for a lot of his false accusations.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also told Tapper that Trump is attacking his “political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories” and called it “bizarre behavior.”
O’Rourke said the President is attempting to shift the focus away from last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“He’s changing the conversation, and if we allow him to do that, then we will never be able to focus on the true problems, of which he is a part, and make sure that we get to the solutions,” O’Rourke, an El Paso native, said.
Jeffrey Epstein Was Not Being Monitored in Jail as Directed Before His Death
Authorities said Epstein died of apparent suicide. He was in jail on sex-trafficking charges.
The law enforcement official told The Times Epstein was supposed to be checked by guards every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not being followed the night he was found dead in the Manhattan jail.
The jail had also transferred Epstein’s cellmate and left him alone ahead of his apparent suicide, The Times reports.
Epstein’s death has left officials and lawmakers asking for answers on how this happened.
Epstein had apparently been taken off suicide watch before he died.
His death comes just weeks after officials investigated a possible suicide attempt.
The FBI is launching an investigation into the circumstances of Epstein’s death, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.
R. Kelly Charged With Soliciting a Minor in Minnesota
A Minnesota prosecutor has charged R. Kelly with prostitution and solicitation charges for a 2001 allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.
On Monday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of soliciting the girl after meeting her before a concert in Minneapolis.
Freeman said the girl was trying to get an autograph from Kelly, and that the R&B performer gave her his signature and a phone number. When the girl called the number, she was invited to Kelly’s hotel. There she was offered $200 to take off her clothes and dance, Freeman said. He said Kelly took his clothes off and they danced together.
A criminal complaint said the girl said Kelly lay on his bed and the girl climbed on top of him “body to body.”
“According to Victim, the defendant was rubbing her body” and fondling himself, according to the complaint. “Victim stated that the defendant touched all over her body.”
The complaint said the girl attended Kelly’s concert “as a guest who did not have to pay,” and told her brother what had happened in Kelly’s hotel room.
According to Variety, Freeman said that the victim was under 18 but at least 16 years old at the time and the incident involved “dancing and sexual contact.” He added that there was no sexual intercourse between Kelly and the victim.
The charges are felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison. Freeman said his office investigated after getting a tip from a Chicago tip line.
“We felt we had more than enough to charge based on her testimony and corroboration from her brother,” Freeman — who did not provide a name for the alleged victim in Minneapolis — said.
In a statement to Fox News on Monday, Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg, said: “That case is a pure publicity grab by the prosecutor.” Greenberg also tweeted: “Give me a break. This is beyond absurd.”
Gloria Allred, the attorney for several of Kelly’s accusers, said she also represents the newest woman to come forward. She commended the woman “for the courage she displayed in speaking to law enforcement.
“As this new case demonstrates, it is not too late for there to be justice for even more victims of R. Kelly,” Allred — who added she will not name the woman — said in a statement.
Allred said her client is not a prostitute. She told a news conference in Los Angeles on Monday that she was told the prostitution statute was the only one available to Minnesota authorities to charge Kelly in this case.
The charges are the latest legal problem for the 52-year-old singer, who remains jailed in New York after pleading not guilty last week in federal court to charges that he sexually abused women and girls who attended his concerts there. He is accused of using his fame to recruit young women and girls into illegal sexual activity.
Kelly is also charged separately in Chicago with engaging in child pornography.
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