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Manhattan Heli

Roberto Nickson


Behind the Shot

In an average year, more than 50,000 helicopter flights take off from Manhattan heliports. When heliports and airports in neighboring New Jersey are counted, the number nearly doubles. According to the Brooklyn Heights Association, which tracks activity at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, 80% of the helicopter traffic is nonessential tourist traffic. Average air traffic from those flights is incredible, with an average flyover of major landmarks by tourist helicopters happening every five minutes, seven days a week, year-round.

Most standard tourist flights are 12 to 15 minutes, with most flights sticking to a Hudson River route and staying about 1,400 feet above the water. It’s easy to enjoy most major city highlights from this altitude and vantage point. The more you are willing to spend, the longer the flights and the more varied the route. A completely private charter will fly anywhere over the city where air traffic is not restricted.

FlyNYON, one of the top local operators, flies approximately 70 flights a day over Manhattan from their nearby Kearny, New Jersey, heliport location. Roberto was invited to take one of their evening flights late last year. “FlyNYON invited me to fly over the Manhattan skyline at blue hour. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and I am glad I didn’t. The sky put on a show. I remember this night being extremely cold, though, and my fingers went numb. I don't know how I even managed to alter my settings to get this shot, but I was glad I was able to.”