The pilot flying the helicopter that killed one passenger when it crashed into the East River Tuesday has a criminal past, it was revealed yesterday.

Paul Dudley, 56, a veteran pilot, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in 1980 after stealing thousands of dollars from a restaurant safe when he was 24, according to the New York Post.

The interest in Dudley’s past comes as investigators try to determine what caused the chopper to slam into the East River. They interviewed Dudley yesterday.

But what exactly brought the aircraft down remains a mystery.

 

“One of the areas we’re looking at are the winds,” National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind said during a briefing yesterday.

Meanwhile, local politicians floated the idea of banning helicopters altogether. “Nonessential flights in and out of Manhattan pose too great a risk,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district includes downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront.

Squadron and other state and city politicians said heliports should no longer allow flights with tourists in tow. Instead, he said, pilots should have to prove that they need to land for business or government, such as a presidential visit.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney also asked the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday to evaluate chopper safety.

Helicopter charters aren’t cheap; most companies charge hundreds of dollars per ride. At Liberty Helicopters, for example, a 20-minute sightseeing tour costs $215.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.

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