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Seattle Helipad Regulations Are Outdated, Need Review, Mayor Says

Seattle's mayor says he would even consider approving drone aircraft to reduce risk in heavily populated areas after Tuesday's fatal crash.
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The news helicopter that crashed Tuesday in Seattle was flying under helipad regulations that haven't been updated in at least 20 years, something the city's mayor is promising to fix — if that means approving drone aircraft.

The city doesn't track where and how many helipads there are in Seattle, but records of the Federal Aviation Administration list 12 helipads in the city and in surrounding King County.

In a news conference after the helicopter crashed Tuesday morning near Seattle's famous Space Needle — killing two people on board and seriously injuring a man on the ground — Mayor Ed Murray acknowledged that the city's regulations governing helipads (.pdf) haven't been revised since early in the Clinton administration.

"We need to look at it," Murray told reporters. "In consultation with the council, we will decide if we need to adjust our policies."

The current regulations restrict helipads to use in the city's core only for public service, emergency medical flights and news organizations.

To reduce the risk of error in heavily populated parts of town, "we may have to look at" approving drone aircraft for use in commercial and industrial areas, Murray said.

Investigators still don't know what exactly caused Tuesday's crash.