I recently decided to take an advantage of a Citibank and American Airlines AAdvantage offer to get a free flight to New York. I had seen US Helicopter’s Sikorsky 76 service between JFK and Manhattan mentioned on various websites and thought I’d check out prices, not expecting it to be a viable option. I was surprised that on the date I was flying into JFK, a single flight to TSS (East 34th Street Heliport) was ‘only’ $109 – a lot less than I would have expected, so I went ahead and booked. Not only had I never flown on a helicopter before, I thought this option would be far more comfortable and convenient than the Subway, which I had initially been planning to take.
US Helicopter’s website advised to allow a minimum of 120 minutes if connecting from an international flight with a non-partner airline (as I was), so rather than taking a change with a 110 minute connection, I opted for flight UH210, scheduled to leave at 15:45, some 3 hours 25 minutes after my arrival. I thought this would allow for any delays out of LHR and in case I should get stuck in JFK’s notorious immigration queues.
Departure Airport: John F. Kennedy, New York (JFK)
Destination Airport: East 34th Street Heliport, New York (TSS)
Airline & Flight Number: US Helicopter, UH202
Aircraft Type: Sikorsky 76
Date: 11 March 2008
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
After I had cleared immigration (very quick and painless!) and collected my bags in Terminal 8, I took the AirTrain over to Terminal 3, since US Helicopter uses Delta’s terminal. At around 13:30 I checked in at the First/Business class counter where the check-in agent seemed surprised to have a helicopter passenger. “Oh, we’ve got one for US Heli!” she commented to her colleague. My suitcase was tagged, I was handed my boarding pass and directed towards the security check point. I headed over to security and was given a thorough going over! Only afterwards did I look at my boarding pass and realise that my boarding pass had the famous SSSS on it – a first for me. I wonder if this is the norm for passengers travelling on the helicopter services into Manhattan?
I walked around the terminal for a while before heading to the very drab and dull gate. I went to speak to the US Helicopter staff at the desk, and they quickly asked whether I wanted to travel on the next flight, in around 20 minutes. Not wanting to spend even longer walking around the terminal, I accepted, and we (two other passengers plus myself) were given a full safety briefing in the terminal. We were then driven out across the ramp where the driver collected my suitcase. There was a B767 blocking the taxiway, so we had to wait for some time for the helicopter to arrive.
Our S76, N154US, soon arrived and taxied to the stand. The Captain got out and we were led aboard, with rotors running. Hand luggage was placed in the hold, along with my checked suitcase. I opted for a seat in the first row, behind the First Officer, the door was closed and off we taxied.
The flight lasted just under 10 minutes, with some amazing views of JFK and the Manhattan skyline. Photography was permitted onboard throughout the flight (but not whilst on the ramp), so I’ll let my video and photos do the rest of the talking now!
My view facing forwards
There we are
Take off video
JFK getting smaller as we head towards TSS
Seeing this jetBlue A320 land was amazing - sorry it's so blurry!
Looking over the FO's shoulder
Amazing skyline in the distance
The Empire State Building is in clear view
Looks all the more impressive from a helicopter!
Looking towards the UN (and my hotel too!)
Almost there... East 34th Street Heliport
On the ground - the Captain's 'office'
N154US departing TSS
Hope you've enjoyed the photos and video. I would definitely recommend trying US Helicopter on one of their routes between NYC area airports and Manhattan if you get the chance!