The Death and Life of Helicopter Commuting

The Death and Life of Helicopter Commuting



imagine commuting a thousand feet above traffic fifty years ago during the Golden Age of helicopter travel you could until a tragic accident in 1977 brought that era to a close but with new technology on the horizon a new age of airborne commuting could be just around the corner ever since the first skyscrapers shot upward visions of New York City's future showcased convenient access to the skies those visions were realized in 1953 when a helicopter airline called New York Airways established a schedule of routes carrying passengers between Manhattan's Riverside heliports and New York City's airports in a fleet of repurposed Boeing and Sikorsky military helicopters for as little as five dollars you could hop on one of their 20 seat shuttles and be it your departure gate within 10 minutes at its peak New York Airways served over a half million passengers a year with dozens of daily scheduled flights we always flew past the Statue of Liberty on the way to Newark to give the passengers and canoe that and it was it was great you know he's left for a young pilot it was exciting you see on television Oliver had pictures of New York well there you are right in the middle of it was awesome as I say this it's given me true in the early 1960s the construction of the Pan Am skyscraper in the heart of midtown Manhattan offered an exciting and unprecedented to expansion for New York Airways situated directly above the iconic Grand Central Terminal a massive 59 storey office complex was a symbolic link between the era of trains below and the jet age above at the time Panem was the largest and most famous international airline to top off their eponymous building the tower had a unique modern amenity a rooftop heliport for passengers connecting onto Pan Am flights in 1965 New York Airways partnered with Pan Am and added the Midtown rooftop to its roots the rooftop helipad became a widely admired cultural landmark making its way into Hollywood films such as the 1968 Clint Eastwood thriller coogans bluff.the direktor Ridley Scott has said that landing on the Pan Am roof was the inspiration for the futuristic sets in his sci-fi epic Blade Runner was rounding it off it was pretty close to 900 feet high it was extremely challenging especially at night in the weather thing I've ever done except for getting shot at in Vietnam not everyone was pleased with the new route however the things that bought it is the most the noise factors and the danger it was sort of a fun I did yeah it's futuristic then when you think about it you want to really a bus overhead populated areas in midtown Manhattan to me that still doesn't make sense the board ended up approving it I really did become scared that something was going to happen a big helicopter bringing people in from New York's Kennedy Airport killed five people after landing on the roof of the 59 story of Pan Am building in the center of town my boss had asked me to take a quick trip to Nashville he suggested to make it easy use a helicopter run across town I've took the elevator up to the Pan Am building after a short time we started to move up the escalator and we got about halfway up but suddenly there was a loud noise and we were showered with little pieces of glass breaking everything stopped and I went up and I saw that the helicopter had flipped over on its side the thing that I most remember I can see even today is the one body laying there on the rooftop and it was cut up and in the torso it was just overwhelming loading passengers with the rotors turning was not one of my favorite things but apparently the thinking was that the cost of putting on the rotor brake to stop the rotors but still keep the engines running ended up being a maintenance cost that they did not want to deal with this is the point that the landing gear broke on the top part of the strut and basically just rolled over this way for passengers waiting to board were killed instantly by the projectile rotor blades one piece of the rotor blade flew off the roof and smashed into an office window on the side of the Pan Am building another piece fell 60 stories down to the street killing a 29 year old woman as she made her way home during the rush hour commute in the wake of the disaster the city immediately suspended all service to the Pan Am building rooftop the NTSB launched an investigation and concluded that the accident was due to high cycle fatigue propagation in other words wear and tear as for the public image of helicopter travel didn't do the image any good you know and then consequently there's no rooftop helicopter operations in New York City or many places around the country that I know of maybe a couple of hospitals or something owing to litigation costs rising fuel prices and declining traffic due to its damaged reputation New York Airways went out of business two years later in Los Angeles San Francisco and Chicago similar scheduled helicopter services operated throughout the 1960s and 70s financial issues in a series of fatal crashes forced most of these companies out of business as well since the demise of New York Airways other ventures have attempted to replicate scheduled helicopter service including a brief attempt in the late 1980s by Donald Trump all failed despite the decline of scheduled service overall helicopter traffic surged in the 1980s due to increase private charters for corporate travel and for tourists sightseeing around Manhattan concerns about noise however caused a major backlash forcing the city to dramatically reduce flights and heliport access in recent years as New York City's population traffic and wealth have increased the demand for reliable time-saving means of transportation is arguably higher than ever a newcomer to the short distance aviation market called blade launched in 2013 is harkening back to the Golden Age of commercial travel powered by modern ride-sharing technology before blade it cost six thousand dollars to fly to the Hamptons probably the three thousand dollars to go to the airport we now fly people to him to the airport for one hundred ninety five dollars we bought fly people to the Hamptons from five hundred ninety five dollars it's still expensive but we're now getting to the point where we really almost add ride-sharing black car pricing blade like uber doesn't actually own any of its vehicles instead it contracts with helicopter charter companies and focuses on providing a consistent customer facing experience through a mobile app ultimately blade faces many of the same obstacles that the industry of space for years the high hourly cost of helicopter operations and the noise but there's a new technology on the horizon that could mitigate those issues five six years from now is really going to be the dawn of what we call Evita electric vertical takeoff and landing rotorcraft and the beauty of these rotorcraft is that they're quiet and they're less expensive blade along with uber Larry Page and others are betting on a VTOL technology to introduce a new golden age of airborne commuting the technology is still very primitive but at battery capacity safety and air traffic obstacles can be overcome rooftop point-to-point transport could become a reality again meanwhile 800 feet above the bustling streets of Manhattan the heliport atop the former Pan Am building remains closed a forty-year-old reminder of how an unexpected tragedy can change the course of an industry and a city forever you you

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Comments

  1. New Yorkers hate the chopping sound of the helicopters overhead. This should be illegal. It ruins public spaces, and parks, with horrific noise.

  2. 5 from 500k passengers? Maybe people died eaten by shark, wins a greater number, *if you compare apple to pizza.

  3. One incident and heli rides are banned.
    So many mass shootings and guns aren't.
    US of A for you, ladies & gentleman 🤷‍♂️

  4. Tragic as that accident was, many more people die every day in car accidents, yet we haven't ended automobiles. There are bus accidents too, we still have those. Nothing in life is 100% safe, and while what happened is horrible, it also seems foolish to completely end a promising use of transportation technology because of it. Maybe it's the optics of it or something. I sure would love to have the option though. 42 years later…think of how many more places would have helicopter transport which is actually affordable, and how extensive it would be in the big, big cities. A lost opportunity after a decade of presumably safe operation, all because of one accident. Talk about giving up! Seems like this would have been the opportunity to change some designs and make it safer.

  5. This video looked like a 9th grader made it for his homework assignment. Nothing but cliches in the narration and the editing.

  6. Not surprising that helicopter crashed. They looked like tuna cans. Technology has come along way in rotor technology. I'm betting crashes would be rare.

  7. Nothing changes stupid over-head. Most all accidents ARE some form of stupid, whether it was maintenance or pilot error. It was and is always avoidable if someone pays attention beyond the money.

  8. Original thoughts for commercial helicopters was to have one in every drive way. Can you imagine that?

  9. Why go through the hassles & take the risks? All that air traffic for 500,000 passengers per year when annual Subway ridership in 2018 was 1,727,366,607 (source: http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/ ). Forget it. It's dangerous & it's dumb. Yes subways are dangerous but I believe the risks of helicopters and people falling from the sky is a little worse & not worth it until we develop technology to transport a larger fraction of commuters.

  10. had the company been more focused on providing a better service for the people, and not so focused on the money, maybe the industry actually would’ve grown into something. or maybe there are just too many inevitable problems and rooftop travel will remain an idea of the future (for now)

  11. Have flown in many helicopters…don't like them. Don't trust them. Now the sky will be jammed up. So some app. creator can make $$$.

  12. What the hell terrorists the hayday of helicopter comuting would have been a way better time to crash into a building or two… Way easier to aim than a passenger jet for sure…

  13. It's fascinating how small tragedies of just a few people dying can have a bigger effect on the human psyche than larger tragedies of hundreds dying. After all, how many buses and trains have crashed killing hundreds over the years, but we don't stop using them? But 5 people die on a helicopter landing and it's shut down forever. Sheesh.

  14. This is only taking US stats. World wide commercial scheduled helicopter flights have not proved to be viable due to noise levels, meaning convenient heliports are difficult to locate and expensive as helicopters need lots of maintenance and have poor fuel economy. Poor maintenance has been behind many crashes and was also why, at least in the UK, the Chinook is only permitted for military use. It is also difficult to fly around tall buildings as you get strange and very variable wind directions at landing and takeoff.

    I think those planning such services are letting their optimism overrule their common sense. They really do have to work through and get viable solutions for all of the issues to get a viable service.

  15. A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof
    Like a dragonfly on a tomb
    And business men in button downs
    Press into conference rooms

    — Joni Mitchell

  16. Sikorsky’s helo’s were out dated the day they went into service! If one wants chartered helo’s that is fine, but use the most modern bird available! And modern blades that sound dampening & electric for EVTOL tech!

  17. The interest in this is a consequence of our failure to build enough housing close to where people work.

  18. The fact that it was on the roof didn’t contribute to the accident at all!

    If the passengers were boarding the helicopter at a cornfield in Iowa, the exact same accident would have still happened, and still killed everyone trying to board.

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