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Video: The Death and Life of Helicopter Commuting

Fifty years ago, a helicopter company called New York Airways whisked passengers from the rooftop of the iconic Pan Am Building in midtown Manhattan to any city airport in just 10 minutes. ( More...

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Michael Best 3
For the last 30 years Helijet has operated scheduled service between Vancouver and Victora, BC.
John Freschl 3
I actually rode on one many years ago - SFO Helicopters sold low cost excursions from SFO that headed past the port of San Francisco, landed in Sausalito, then returned. I think the tickets were less than $15. It was a fun ride, but I understand the noise and safety concerns as well as the economics.
dee9bee 1
Yes, I did that once, SFO-Sausalito-Berkley-SFO, lots of fun. It was on a standby basis. I was young and never considered the possibility of being bumped in,say, Berkeley and finding transport back to SFO on my meager student savings.
sconklan 4
Kind of an overreaction to once accident, don't you think. They could have just done more scheduled maintenance and moved the departure point to a safer location.
Marc Bechtol 4
So typical. People with every reason to say no and no reason to say yes shouldn't be able to wipe out an industry with the stroke of a pen. Five people tragically lost their lives that day and that's sad. How many other New Yorkers died in accidents that day?
craigbell1941 2
What about LA Airways from LAX to Disneyland? Crashed two within a few months back in the early 70s killing several people.
John Jones 1
We flew on LA Airways to Disneyland, my first helicopter ride. I remember how unbelievably loud it was as a passenger, at least to me as a young boy. Two turboshaft engines trying to puree the transmission gears.
olsende 2
My father worked for New York Airways. I was fortunate enough to have landed on the Pan Am building in the S-61L before the roof-top heliport was permanently shut down. A very fond and very distant memory...
Jerry Connors 1
I was Interline Sales Manager at NYA when the May 1977 accident happened. A tragic end to the Pan Am Heliport operation. BTW the 30-passenger Sikorsky S-61L involved was dismantled on the roof and brought down in the Pan Am Bldg. freight elevators and transported back to Sikorsky in CT. Then it was rebuilt there, flight tested and resold to Courtline Helicopters in South Africa.
Air Canada operated a helicopter shuttle from the Toronto International Airport to Toronto Island Airport for a few months in 1986.
In 1972 I flew on NY Airways from JFK to LaGuardia. It was a fun ride, and it sure beat worrying about the bus across Long Island.
Elliot Cannon 1
Anyone remember Airspur out of LAX? Tried to get discrete IFR routes from LAX to off airport heliports. That didn't work out too well and when the weather was IMC, the helicopters had to wait in line behind all the 727's. The bad memories of LA Airways was still fresh in peoples minds as well. If I remember, rotor blade delamination was a problem for LA Airways. Airspur used beautiful Rolls Royce powered Westland helicopters. They suffered a tail rotor failure that resulted in a crash. Minor injuries and they fixed the problem that caused the crash but that was pretty much the end. Too bad.
Dave Nosek 1
Rode one from San Bernardino to LAX back in the late 60's. Was a lot better than the long road trip that was the alternative.
max kohnke 1
Watch the Clint Eastwood movie Coofan's Bluff to see some good footage.
max kohnke 0
Coogan's Bluff.
Many years ago I took a corporate helicopter to LAX to make a last minute flight to D.C. Our pilot had difficulty with the LAX tower because he wasn't fast enough when he got the "go" from the tower. On the second "go" we crossed the runways at a "safe" altitude and landed in the top of a parking structure used for that purpose at the time. Pretty exciting stuff.
Corrections: Landed on the top of and flight to IAD
sharon bias 1
I remember the helicopters going from Oakland to SF. I always wanted to ride on it.
I have vague, little kid memories of a (Vertol?) flight with my folks in (San Francisco?) back around 1960. Gawd, I wish I had photos of all the aircraft I flew on back then...
Ric Wernicke 1
I don't think the crashes had anything to do with the end of scheduled service. Deregulation of the airline industry and trial lawyers cashing in on helicopter liability did it.

You used to be able to add the helicopter ride from LAX to Disneyland at little or no extra cost to you ticket from the East coast.

The trial lawyers have raised the price of insurance for helicopter manufacturers so high that most individuals cannot own one. The cost of maintenance is much higher than it should be due to the high prices for parts caused by low production numbers.


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