Helicopters for tourist trips in New York were refueled with contaminated fuel: this greatly increases the risk of accidents
More than 10 helicopters, which arrange tourist excursions over New York, were refueled with fuel contaminated with metal particles. Such fuel could cause serious damage and crash of the helicopter. The New York Post learned about the situation.
A potentially catastrophic complaint has been filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by HeliNY, which operates sightseeing tours and charter flights from a helipad in midtown Manhattan (Pier 6 in the Financial District).
All helicopter operators in and around the city were required to “ground their fleets to check the fuel lines in every vehicle,” HeliNY COO Oyvind Vataker wrote in the complaint.
“Having checked the fuel systems of all of our aircraft, we found contamination in three of our six helicopters,” Wataker said. “This resulted in huge costs and opportunity costs due to the fact that we did not work while the machines were grounded. Additional expenses also went towards maintenance to flush the fuel lines and change the filters.”
The contaminants in the fuel were first noticed by an unnamed helicopter operator on October 28, according to the letter. Aviation expert Peter Field explained that metal particles in the fuel can clog a helicopter’s fuel injectors, which in turn “may lead to engine failure.”
The search for the guilty
In his letter to the FAA, Wataker said that the heliports at East 30th Street and West 34th Street were not the source of the pollution.
All but one of the helicopters refueled with dirty fuel at Pier 6. The prime suspect is allegedly Saker Aviation Services, which operates a helipad there.
“Saker is obligated to inspect every shipment of fuel it receives before pumping, as well as to periodically check the lines in its fuel depot to ensure they are free of contaminants,” Vataker wrote.
An FAA spokesman confirmed that the agency is looking into the cause and culprit of the helicopters being refueled with contaminated fuel, but declined to comment further.
Saker, a publicly traded company that also operates the Garden City Regional Airport in Kansas, said in a statement: “There is no indication that there was any contamination in our fuel system.”
“In the 15 years of operation of the helipad, we have never experienced this kind of problem,” the company said. “Saker is cooperating with the FAA and will continue to provide any information requested from us.”
Saker director Sam Goldstein also stated that Wataker’s letter was inaccurate and that the contaminated fuel was discovered on November 4 by Zip Aviation, which also operates from the Pier 6 heliport. Goldstein added that the Saker fuel system at that helipad does not work with October 28 due to an unspecified leak.
Zip Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
More than 30 people have died in helicopter crashes in New York City since 1977, including tourists.