JFK Terminal 9 - Downtown Wall St. in 9 minutes


Aug 31, 2005
February 6, 2006
New Helicopter Service Promises Wall St. to J.F.K., in 9 Minutes
As soon as next month, travelers could be boarding helicopters at the foot of Wall Street and flying straight to Kennedy International Airport, zipping past city traffic — and also past other passengers waiting to clear security at the airport.

That service, which will cost more than $140 each way, is being arranged by a start-up company and the federal government. The Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is setting up screening equipment for passengers and luggage at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, making it the first heliport in the country to be "federalized," said Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the administration.

Within a few months, the security administration plans to install a similar checkpoint at the heliport at the east end of 34th Street, Ms. Davis said. Each heliport will have at least eight screeners and the full complement of scanning and bomb-detection equipment used at airports, all provided by the federal government, she said.

The checkpoints will allow customers of the U.S. Helicopter Corporation to check themselves and their bags through to their final destination, be it Chicago or Shanghai, said Jerry Murphy, chief executive of the company. In eight or nine minutes, the helicopters will whisk passengers straight to a gate at the airport, where they can walk right onto their planes, he said. Their bags will be loaded directly onto the aircraft.

The service's appeal will be "selective," said Charles A. Gargano, the vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the downtown heliport. He said the customers would be executives "in the financial community and downtown" who want to save the time it can take to ride to the airport and go through security.

U.S. Helicopter plans to begin operating in mid-March with 12 hourly flights from downtown to the American Airlines terminal at J.F.K., Mr. Murphy said. It hopes to reach agreements soon to deliver passengers to other airlines. Its Sikorsky helicopters can carry as many as 12 passengers, and it expects to have three of them initially, Mr. Murphy said, giving it a capacity of fewer than 500 outbound passengers a day.

By contrast, about 50,000 travelers pass through security screening each day at Kennedy, according to the Port Authority. The security administration plans to spend $560,000 this year to set up and operate the checkpoint at the Wall Street heliport, on Pier 6 in the East River, Ms. Davis said.

Creating a checkpoint at the East 34th Street Heliport will cost about the same, she said. Ms. Davis added, "It was our decision that based on U.S. Helicopter's business model, it would be of benefit to us to provide resources to these two heliports."

To supply the screeners at the heliports, the administration will have to reduce staffing at airports because Congress has limited their number nationwide to 45,000 since 2002. Some Congressional Democrats have argued for a lifting of that cap, calling it arbitrary and counterproductive, but it remains in place.

To stay within the limit, the security administration reassigns positions as it federalizes additional airports. The administration manages security at about 450 airports but, so far, no heliports, Ms. Davis said.

In July, it decided to reduce the maximum number of screeners at the region's three largest airports, Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark Liberty International, to 3,542 from 3,791, a decrease of 6.5 percent. That drew protests from officials at the Port Authority, which operates the three airports. They argued that more screeners were needed because in recent years passenger traffic at the airports has been rising.

Though some of the 16 employees the administration expects to place at the Manhattan heliports might otherwise be screening passengers at one of the three airports, Mr. Gargano said he approved of the plan.

"Well, why not? It's not costing the Port Authority anything," he said. "Adding another mode of transportation to the airports is a good thing."

He said the service could help reinvigorate the economy of Lower Manhattan and was in keeping with the ultimate plan of providing a faster trip from downtown to Kennedy. Mr. Gargano, like his political patron, Gov. George E. Pataki, has been an advocate of a rail link from the Wall Street area to the airport. Having helicopter service, he said, would not obviate the need for the train.

"You're talking about different levels of riders," he said. "The number of people moving this way is not going to be great."

Still, U.S. Helicopter does have big dreams. The company hopes to have scheduled service between all three public heliports in Manhattan — the third is at the west end of 30th Street — and the three big airports within a year. Then, according to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it hopes to add service in other cities.

Doing so would require a lot more capital, agreements with more airlines and federal security checkpoints at several more heliports. Mr. Murphy of U.S. Helicopter said the company had raised $19 million, $6 million of it from investors in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In New York City, there has been no scheduled helicopter shuttle service to the airports in almost 20 years, aviation officials said. The concept had its heyday in the 1970's and 1980's, when Pan American and New York Airways provided service from heliports, including one atop the Pan Am building, now the MetLife Building.

The rooftop helipad was closed in 1977 after a spinning rotor broke loose on a New York Airways helicopter and killed five people, including a woman on the street below. Helicopter service to Kennedy from the East Side and downtown heliports continued until Pan Am ran into financial trouble in the mid-1980's.

Mr. Murphy, who was chief executive of Kiwi Airlines, which is now defunct, said he expected U.S. Helicopter to carry as many as 160,000 passengers in its first year. Initially, the one-way fare will be $139, plus taxes and fees, but it will rise to $159 within weeks, he said. He said the company planned to start selling tickets this week at its Web site, www.flyush.com.

"We believe that the majority of our customers will be the people that fly airplanes on a very high-frequency basis," Mr. Murphy said. Most of those people already travel to the airports by livery cars that charge $85 or more but can take 45 minutes, compared with 8 or 9 minutes in a helicopter, he said.
The boneheads who fact check these great news articles obviously forgot that New York Helicopter (HD) was still operating scheduled service between E 34th street and JFK during the early 90's, arriving at the AA terminal. Jetwire had a similarly flawed article last week.

I remember non-reving on them once just because we could. The S-58T they were using was probably a little more roomy than the newer type USH will be operating, but it was definitely ancient...
The S-58T they were using was probably a little more roomy than the newer type USH will be operating, but it was definitely ancient...

For eight minutes, I can take it!

It seems there's nothing new under the sun. I recall deadheading on NY Helicopter from JFK-LGA-EWR in lieu of a limo in the early seventies. Many of those flights stopped at the top of the Pan Am Building, but you know what happened then.