The Death and Life of Helicopter Commuting

Fifty years ago, a helicopter company called New York Airways whisked passengers from the rooftop of the iconic Pan Am Building in midtown Manhattan to any city airport in just 10 minutes.

The era of rooftop helicopter travel ended on May 16, 1977, however, when an idling Sikorsky S-61’s landing strut gave way and the aircraft tipped over. Four passengers waiting in line were killed by the rotor blades, and a fifth person 800 feet below died when shrapnel fell to Madison Avenue.

40 years later, new technology could open a new chapter in short-distance airborne commuting.

Video by Raymond Schillinger

Camera: Brian Schildhorn
Animation / Graphics: Sylvia Yang and Chiachi Lee
Sound Design: Andrew Hylnsky

News Footage provided by NBCUniversal Archives. All Rights Reserved.

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