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New York Airways

This article discusses the helicopter airline, which should not be confused with the 1980s startup airline, New York Air.
New York Airways

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Founded 1949
Ceased operations 1979
Focus cities New York City
Destinations See Destinations below
Parent company See Fleet below
Headquarters LaGuardia Airport
Flushing, New York United States

New York Airways was a helicopter airline in the New York City area. Founded in 1949 as a mail and cargo carrier, on July 9, 1953 it may have been the first scheduled helicopter airline to carry passengers in the United States.[1] Its headquarters were at LaGuardia Airport.[2] Although primarily a helicopter airline operator with scheduled passenger operations, New York Airways also flew fixed wing aircraft, being the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter which is a 19-passenger twin turboprop that has STOL capabilities.[3][4]


Passenger flights started with Sikorsky S-55 military helicopters, but Sikorsky and the Boeing Company soon designed civil helicopters. New York Airways added three S-58s to its five S-55s in 1956; in 1958 the Boeing Vertol V-44, a 15-seat civil version of the Piasecki H-21 took over.[5] In 1962 they transitioned to the tandem rotor, twin turbine engine powered Boeing Vertol 107-II Turbocopter[6] and later operated the twin turbine engine Sikorsky S-61. In February 1955 the one way fare from LaGuardia to Idlewild was $4.50. The ship was a Sikorsky H-19, N418A. The trip took ten minutes and their phone number was DEfender 5-6600.

The first scheduled passenger flights to Manhattan arrived in December 1956 at the new heliport west of the West Side Highway at 30th St. The downtown heliport on East River Pier 6 opened in 1960 and New York Airways moved all its Manhattan passenger flights down there around December 1960. Due to route restrictions on the single-engine Vertol 44, nonstop flights from Manhattan to Idlewild had to await the twin-engine 107. Moody's says in 1962 the "operating revenue" of $3.9 million included $2.2 million federal subsidy. In June 1964 they had 32 daily flights from JFK to Newark Airport and 33 returning; all flights each way between about 0900 and 1930 stopped at Wall St. The only other flights: 15 round trips a day between JFK and the Port Authority building at the World's Fair (La Guardia was still under construction).

Scheduled flights to the top of the Pan Am Building began in December 1965; they ended in 1968, then resumed for a few months in 1977. In April 1966 23 flights a day flew nonstop to Pan Am's terminal at JFK, scheduled 10 minutes; passengers could check in at the Pan Am Building 40 minutes before their scheduled departure out of JFK. The downtown heliport had 13 flights a day to Newark, 5 nonstops to TWA's terminal at JFK and 12 to LGA, all of which continued to JFK. (Downtown had no weekend flights.) Soon after Pan Am Building flights resumed the March 1977 Official Airline Guide (OAG) showed 48 weekday S-61 departures from there: 12 to EWR, 14 to LGA then JFK, and 22 nonstops to JFK.

New York Airways employed the first African American airline pilot. Perry H. Young made his historic first flight on February 5, 1957. Young had previously made history as the first African American flight instructor for the United States Army Air Corps.[7]


At its peak the airline partnered with 24 international and domestic airlines. At various times it served:

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In 1969 the Official Airline Guide (OAG) listed some inter-airport flights using STOL Twin Otters along with the Vertol flights. Fuel prices soared after the 1973 energy crisis damaging profitability. The airline could not recover after the 1977 Pan Am Building accident and the 1979 energy crisis, and New York Airways filed for bankruptcy on May 18, 1979.

Passengers boarded, in thousands, scheduled flights only: 68 in 1957, 144 in 1960, 537 in 1967, 268 in 1970.


All surviving New York Airways Boeing Vertol 107s are now operated by Columbia Helicopters:

  • N6672D
  • N6674D
  • N6675D
  • N6676D
  • N6682D
  • N107PA (Operated under contract to Pan Am)
  • N108PA (Operated under contract to Pan Am)

N6674D is the highest flying time helicopter in the world, with more than 70,000 flight hours since its construction in 1962.[8]

N6682D is in the 1968 film Coogan's Bluff starring Clint Eastwood taking off atop the Pan Am Building. N108PA is the helicopter arriving with Eastwood.

N6676D is shown taking off from the Downtown Manhattan/Wall St. Heliport in the last of the Secret Agent 077 trilogy of films, 1966's Special Mission Lady Chaplin. It appears in the 1967 spy thriller Matchless, arriving and taking off from the Pan Am Building.


On October 14, 1963 New York Airways Flight 600 (a Boeing-Vertol 107 registered N6673D) crashed shortly after takeoff from Idlewild Airport (now JFK) en route to Newark via Wall Street. All three passengers and all three crew members died. The accident was blamed on a mechanical failure due to contaminated lubricants.[9]

On May 16, 1977, the landing gear failed on a Sikorsky S-61L (N619PA) while it was taking on passengers on the roof of the Pan Am Building. The aircraft rolled onto its side. Its spinning rotor blades killed four passengers waiting to board (including movie director Michael Findlay) and injured a fifth. Parts of a broken blade fell into the streets below, killing one pedestrian and injuring another. The accident precipitated the permanent closure of the heliport.[10]

On April 18, 1979, Sikorsky S-61L (N618PA), while on departure climbout from Newark International Airport, experienced a fracture of one of the tail rotor blades, resulting in severe vibrations and an immediate return and descent to the airport. At about 150 feet altitude, the entire tail rotor gearbox was torn from the aircraft, resulting in an immediate and radical center of gravity change to the aircraft. This caused a severe nose down attitude and uncontrolled contact with the ground. Compounding the accident was the failure of both hydraulic systems due to the loss of the tail rotor gear box, which rendered the aircraft virtually uncontrollable. There were three fatalities and thirteen serious injuries. The airline ceased flying that day and never resumed operations, filing for bankruptcy the following month. [9]

See also

External links


  1. ^ No other helicopter airlines in the world were carrying passengers at that time, but BEA had scheduled passenger flights on S-51s starting in 1950. American Aviation 1 July 1947 p15 says Skyway was carrying passengers to Boston Airport on S-51s in 1947.
  2. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. May 3, 1957. 608.
  3. ^, New York Airways DHC-6 Twin Otter photos
  4. ^, New York Airways July 7, 1969 system timetable
  5. ^ Aviation Week for 9 Jan 1961 says direct operating costs for a Vertol 44 were 31 cents per seat-mile, so with it the airline would need permanent subsidy.
  6. ^ Aviation Week for 9 January 1961 says with the Vertol 107 "it will be possible to operate with vertical takeoff capability instead of the takeoff roll necessary with the single-engine piston H-44B. This feature will be of utmost importance in serving community center sites..."
  7. ^ LeDuff, Charlie (November 19, 1998). "Perry H. Young Jr., 79, Pioneering Pilot, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-27. 
  8. ^ Sweet, Dan. "Tandem Notes" (PDF). Boeing Helicopter. 
  9. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report - New York Airways, inc., Boeing-Vertol 107-II, N6673D, New York International Airport, Jamaica, New York October 14, 1963" (.PDF). National Transportation and Safety Board. June 24, 1964. Retrieved 2007-02-09. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report - New York Airways, inc., Sikorsky S-61L, N619PA Pan Am Building Heliport, New York, New York May 16, 1977" (.PDF). National Transportation and Safety Board. October 13, 1977. Retrieved 2007-02-09.