New York lawmakers seek to ban some helicopter flights

Tourist and ride-sharing helicopters may soon be prohibited in New York City -- in a move to increase safety that could also put a dent in the high-end air travel and sight-seeing business.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, and Carolyn Maloney -- all Democrats representing districts in New York City -- will be putting forth legislation on Saturday that will outlaw all non-essential helicopter flights in the city's airspace, according to the New York Post. Police, medical, news, and emergency/disaster relief would all be excluded from the proposed legislation.

“The Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2019 would drastically reduce helicopter traffic, improve safety, and cut down on noise by prohibiting non-essential helicopters from flying within New York City airspace,” the three representatives said in a joint statement.

This potential new law would shut down a recent Uber venture. In July, the ride-sharing company launched Uber Copter, accessible via its app, for eight-minute helicopter rides between a Manhattan helipad and JFK Airport, priced at $200 and up. The main competition for this new business from Uber was Blade -- a helicopter company that began in 2014 and offers similarly-priced trips to JFK, as well as rides to various luxury vacation destinations like Nantucket and East Hampton.

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Two recent helicopter crashes in New York City have led to this potential legislation -- one in the East River that killed five people in March and another that crashed onto a Midtown Manhattan building in June that killed the pilot.


In June, Nadler, Maloney, and Velazquez wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting that it ban all non-essential helicopter rides in NYC.

“The number of helicopter flights over New York City creates intolerable risks to the community ... There is no justification for allowing tourists to joy-ride through our skies, endangering people below and adding to the heavy burden of noise pollution residents already endure. Commuter helicopter flights impose risks to the community that far outweigh any benefits to the very small number of people who use them.”