(NEWSER) – Tim McCormack, the helicopter pilot who died in a crash-landing atop a Manhattan high-rise Monday, shouldn’t have been in the air at all in that afternoon’s cloudy weather conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration says.
An FAA spokeswoman says the 58-year-old was not “instrument rated,” meaning he was not legally allowed to fly when visibility under 3 miles would have forced him to rely on the helicopter’s instruments and the directions of air traffic controllers to guide him, CNN reports.
At the time of the crash, it was raining and visibility at Central Park was estimated at 1.25 miles. Former NTSB air safety investigator Al Yurman tells NBC that flying in heavy clouds without knowing how to use the instruments could cause “spatial disorientation.”
“It’s like putting a blindfold on,” Yurman says. “Turn yourself around three times and see if you know where you are.”
CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo says an instrument rating requires around 100 hours of additional training. A source tells the AP that McCormack, who took off from the East 34th Street Heliport 11 minutes before the crash, radioed that he was lost and trying to get back to the heliport.
McCormack slammed into the AXA Equitable building, which is in the restricted area within a mile radius of Trump Tower. Officials say McCormack did not have permission to be in the area and was not in contact with air traffic control at LaGuardia Airport.
NTSB investigator Doug Brazy says McCormack was supposed to be flying south, toward the airport in Linden, NJ, where he was based. (The pilot’s brother says he was a hero who saved “countless lives.”)