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Copter Crash in Queens

In Queens, New York

January 10, 1969

Will Fly for Food...

Frank McDermott, a former Army pilot with nearly 8000 flight hours, worked for a construction firm and lived in Wantagh, New York.  The 37-year-old husband, and father of two, also had a side job of working as the relief helicopter pilot for the WOR Radio AM-710 traffic helicopter, a Bell 47G-2, registered as N710K.

On the afternoon of Friday, January 10, 1969, McDermott was filling in for Fred Feldman, known locally as "Fearless Fredie," who hired him for the station about six years prior.  Earlier in the flight, heavy winds and cold temperatures were causing him difficulty in operating the helicopter.

The Worst Thing Possible...

About 5:25 PM, McDermott went on the air for a one-minute report on rush-hour traffic conditions. In the studio, John Scott said McDermott complained about rough flying weather, then broke off abruptly, saying, "Take it back, John."

McDermott then lost control of the helicopter, and as it plunged towards earth, he leap from it.  His body was struck by one of the rear rotors, and the copter crashed into top of an apartment building, located at 2060 20th Street in the Astoria section of Queens.

McDermott's body was later found in the courtyard of the apartment building.  Fire broke out in the three-story Queens building which was hit and spread to an adjacent building. The three-alarm fire burned all the way down to the building's second floor. 

Counting, and Caring...

Besides McDermott, the only injury in the crash was sustained by a 12-year-old boy, Timothy White, who ran out of his apartment nearby just after the accident and tripped, breaking his elbow.

Fred Feldman said later, "I wish to hell it had been me. He's got a wife and two kids.  I feel the way I did about some friends in the service who got it."

The crash came on the same day the city was honoring the three Apollo 8 astronauts
who circled the moon. In 1962, when the city was honoring astronaut John Glenn, an American Airlines plane crashed at Idlewild Airport, now Kennedy Airport, killing 95 persons.

Finding Cause...

Federal investigators studying the crash of the helicopter said that sparks were seen coming from the tail of the copter before it plunged into the building.   "But we have no indication at the moment that the helicopter began to break up in flight," said George Van Epps, director of the Eastern Region office of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB concluded that probable cause of the accident was that maintenance personnel having overtorqued a delta hinge bolt in the tail rotor, changed the pitch change rod bearings to fail.



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