EVACUATION: Chopper crash lands on NYC skycraper

NEW Yorkers are in shock after a helicopter crashed into a 52-storey skyscraper, killing the pilot on impact.

Photos released by the fire department show the chopper was obliterated.

Only a few pieces of the wreckage are recognisable as having been parts of an aircraft, including a piece of the tail.

A video posted to Twitter showed the helicopter flying erratically before the crash in wet and foggy weather.

Eyewitnesses said they felt the building shake as others were forced to evacuate and were sent home for the day.

Damage to the building - AXA Equitable in mid-town Manhattan - appeared to be light.

For a city that still bears the scars of September 11, 2001, the "rumble" of a building shaking brought back horrible memories.

"I heard a big boom, and wow, thought here we go again," one woman told NBC News.

"There's a certain level of anxiety that takes you right back to 9-11," another witness said.

"If you're a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9-11," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo added, calling the latest event "shocking".

Aviation records show that the helicopter was an Agusta A109E linked to a real estate company founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini.

The pilot was not the helicopter's owner, he was the only person on board.

"The helicopter is pretty obliterated at this point. It was obviously a very hard hit," NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Nicolas Estevez was across the street when a 30 cm piece of metal that appeared to be from the helicopter landed just metres away on the footpath.

Shauna Farrell said she was in a meeting on the 36th floor of the building "when a window fell through and we heard a loud whizzing sound of a motor."

Then she said she felt the crash, prompting herself and others on the floor to get out of the building.

"We ran down. I think we were the first floor to evacuate, actually, because we felt it so quickly," Ms Farrell told ABC News.

"There was already FDNY on the scene. We were kind of just running away from the building as quickly as we could," she said.

Steven Gartner was on the 42nd floor of the building when he said he heard "a buzz and a bang - and then the entire building shook."

His colleagues "were anxious," he told ABC News, but all managed to evacuate through the stairwell without panicking.

Nathan Hutton, who works on the 29th floor, said the building shook when the helicopter slammed into the roof.

"It felt like you were just standing there, and someone takes their hand and just shoves you," he said. "You felt it through the whole building."

Melvin Douglas, 50, who was selling umbrellas on the street, said he heard a "rumble" when the helicopter crashed.

"I didn't see it, but I felt it," Mr Douglas said. "Smoke was on top of the building."

A fire that broke out on the roof was quickly brought under control, the fire department said.

Police said they believe it was not terror-related but have not given a reason for the crash.

Officials say the chopper took off from a helipad nearby and was in the air for about 11 minutes before it crashed in airspace that is supposed to be off-limits.

A flight restriction in effect since President Donald Trump took office bans aircraft from flying below 914 metres within a 1-mile radius of Trump Tower, which is just a few blocks from the crash site.

The helicopter would need permission from La Guardia tower to fly into the area but authorities would not elaborate on whether the chopper had permission.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill said it may have been headed to its home airport in Linden, New Jersey.

Trump said in a tweet that he'd been briefed on the crash. He said first responders on the scene did a "phenomenal job."

About 4pm local time (6am AEST) the fire department announced that the fire was out and the building is safe.

"I saw people running out," said Laura Esquival, a hostess at Ruth's Chris Steak House, which is located across the street from the crash scene.

Zach Escalante, a computer programmer who works on the third floor of the block, said: "We felt the building move."

Smoke was seen billowing from the top of the building.

A man in the building told NBC he heard a "big explosion". "It was scary," he said.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom before flames erupted from the roof of the building.

Many locals became emotional after saying it reminded them of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The crash occurred atop 787 Seventh Avenue, a 52-story building located between West 51st and West 52nd streets, at the north end of Times Square.

"The building shook," a man who said he worked on the 38th floor told CBS New York. "It sounded like a small engine plane at first then I just felt the building shake," he said

The building houses the US headquarters of AXA Financial, a subsidiary of French-based insurance and banking company. Other tenants include BNP Paribas, Citibank and the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

A BNP Paribas spokesman said staff is safe after being evacuated from the building because of the helicopter crash.

"Staff at BNP Paribas are safe. Our business continuity plans are in process," the spokesman said.

The area is right near New York's bustling Times Square district.

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