First time helicopter tour in NYC: all the things to know before you go up in the air
Founded in 1624 by Dutch settlers at the mouth of the Hudson River on the East Coast of the United States, New York was ranked 400 years later as one of the most mythical cities on the planet. The disproportion of a conquering architecture on an extraordinary natural site!
From the Bronx in the north to Staten Island in the south, Manhattan and the banks of the East River, the Big Apple offers an incredible urban landscape when seen from the sky. A helicopter tour is the only possible solution to take a closer look at this unique city in the world. In short, if you decide to board, it will be an irreplaceable and unforgettable experience.
Here are all the things you need to know to prepare your helicopter flight over New York:
- Why doing a helicopter ride over NYC?
- Do you get airsick or dizzy on a helicopter?
- When can we fly by helicopter in New York?
- How to dress for the helicopter flight?
- What do we see during the flight? What is the flight itinerary?
- How many people can get on board the helicopter?
- How long does the helicopter ride last?
- Where is the heliport located?
- Some tips for photographers
- Last things to know before doing the helicopter tour
- How do I book my helicopter ride?
Able to operate from the city, agile and comfortable, the helicopter is the perfect tool to offer its passengers an unforgettable experience. Its ability to fly in a hover offers the opportunity to contemplate and take 180° pictures of entire districts. The opportunity to give your holiday album an extraordinary dimension.
As such, helicopter flying is quite different from flying. It offers the necessary time for observation and allows you to discover from all possible angles a landmark monument such as the unavoidable Statue of Liberty or the superb One World Trade Center!
A real guided tour thanks to the informed comments of the pilot who shares with you the passion of his city. If you speak English, do not hesitate to ask him your questions, he will be happy to answer you. For enthusiasts, the helicopters used for this type of excursion are luxury Bell 407, Bell 427, EC 130 or EC 155 helicopters.
For there to be vertigo, there must be a physical link between the height position and the ground, as on a balcony or ladder. This is obviously not the case in a helicopter, so there is nothing to fear when it comes to vacuum phobia!
If people who are prone to air sickness should avoid this activity, as should those with health problems or a visceral fear of air travel, be aware that the helicopter offers a particularly comfortable flight. Air sickness is very rare there! In any case, the type of flight proposed is more of a wonder than a thrill!
In general, the magic of the experience outweighs the fear, minutes go by quickly and the most worried passengers don’t really have time to feel uncomfortable!
New York is a pleasure to discover at any time of the day or night. For those who prefer video or photographic photography, it is advisable to book their flight when the sun is high in the sky. A zenith position that optimizes lighting and avoids rays that are too low in the axis of the most interesting panoramas. The most romantic will enjoy discovering the mythical Skyline at sunset. A magical moment where the most beautiful colours of the sky combine with those of the “city that never sleeps” to offer an extraordinary showcase of lights to Manhattan’s skyscrapers.
Be sure to monitor the weather in the days before your flight. A deterioration in weather conditions could result in the cancellation of the latter. Feel free to call the helicopter company the day before to confirm your takeoff. If unfortunately the latter has to be postponed, don’t be too disappointed! Aviation safety is never compromised in New York as it is elsewhere. If you cannot postpone your reservation during your stay in New York, it will be fully refunded.
With the helicopter cabin closed and heated, there is no need to bring warm clothing for this flight over New York. Choose clothes in which you are perfectly comfortable. If you take pictures, choose dark clothes to avoid reflections in the cab windows.
Of course take with you only the bare essentials! Do not carry a bag, scarf or headgear that the pilot will always ask you to leave on the ground before takeoff. You will not be allowed to board with food or drink, and it is not necessary to bring a helmet as one will be provided.
Choose a jacket with zippered pockets to put the keys, identity papers or bank cards you want to keep with you: the certainty of not losing anything in the cabin during the flight!
What you see during the flight will obviously depend on the tour and the duration chosen. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building or Central Park are on the program of all flights offered. These must-see attractions can be complemented by other famous but optional sites or monuments such as Verrazzano Bridge or Yankee Stadium (except on match days of course)! When booking your flight, you will have a choice of different itineraries.
Can we change the itinerary on request during the flight? As these sightseeing tours are determined in advance with the American authorities, it is not possible to modify the itinerary in flight. Everyone will easily understand that air traffic over a large city is necessarily under control!
As the flight over New York City is strictly prohibited for obvious security reasons, NYC can be discovered from the Hudson River and the port. A constraint that does not take anything away from the magic of the experience thanks to the complete interweaving of the waters and the city.
Each helicopter offers six passenger seats. Given the popularity of the activity, flights are always full. You can request a particular seat when booking but there is no guarantee you will get it on takeoff. Passenger placement is determined by their respective weights to ensure a balanced distribution in the aircraft.
You will notice that the weight per passenger is limited to 275 pounds (approximately 125 kg). Would you like to privatize the helicopter to enjoy New York alone from the sky? It is possible but you will have to reserve all 6 seats! If not, tell yourself that sharing such a wonderful experience with others is an opportunity to make unexpected friendships.
The various companies offer several tours with different routes, durations and prices. Flight times range from 12 minutes to 30 minutes (12 to 15 minutes, 18 to 20 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes).
If you have a larger budget, it is also possible to fly with a partner, at sunset or in the evening (more info).
If all the tricks are worth living, the experience really deserves its weight in dollars! Feel free to pay a little more to fly longer. Prices may seem high, but this is understandable when you consider the huge fuel consumption of the aircraft, the maintenance of the helicopter, which requires very complex parts, as well as the insurance and the price of the location on the heliport.
The heliport is a five-minute walk from the South Ferry metro station in Manhattan, bordering Battery Park and the Financial District. The station is served by lines 1, N and R. If you use Google Maps to travel around New York enter the following destination “Downtown Manhattan Heliport”. If you use a GPS, you will need to enter the address next to the heliport: 18 E River Bikeway, New York, NY 10004.
Note that the heliport does not have its own parking lot but you can park your vehicle at one of those available nearby: South Street and Whitehall Street intersection or South St and Old Slip Rd intersection or even South Street Seaport intersection (to be checked again at the time of booking!). From Time Square, it is 30 minutes by metro or taxi to reach the heliport.
- To avoid camera shake, use a camera with integrated optical stabilization (either the camera or the lens), as the helicopter’s vibrations will not make shooting easier.
- Use a polarizing filter to reduce glare from the camera’s curved glass, revive the sky’s color and reduce fog on the horizon.
- Of course, to avoid unpleasant surprises during the flight, remember to have a memory card with enough space and a charged battery.
- Shoot at a fast shutter speed to compensate for the camera’s vibrations (you will probably have to increase the ISO). Indeed, even if you feel like you’re moving slowly when you’re on board, you’re actually moving very fast.
- Take two cameras if you can afford it, one with a wide angle lens to get an overview of the cockpit, with the pilot and passengers, and another one with a zoom mounted on it.
- If you don’t want to bother with several lenses, take an all-in-one zoom equivalent to 24-70mm or 24-105mm (and more) on full size to have a focal length that covers many photo possibilities.
- Already mentioned above, avoid coloured clothes but prefer dark clothes to avoid reflections in the cabin windows.
- If you really want to avoid any reflection, a pair of black gloves may be useful so that you won’t see the reflection of your hands.
- Don’t stick your lens to the glass to avoid vibrations.
- Don’t be stuck to the viewfinder all the time, wanting the perfect picture absolutely… enjoy the view and the experience with your own eyes!
- The flight altitude between 1500 and 2000 feet (500 and 670 meters) allows you to see entire neighborhoods of New York at a glance!
- Before boarding, remember to put your mobile phone in airplane mode. You will have neither the authorization nor the desire to communicate during this key moment of your stay in New York!
- Pregnant women should consult their doctor before booking this activity.
- People with reduced mobility may well consider taking a helicopter tour. All they have to do is notify themselves at the time of booking to benefit from special assistance when boarding and disembarking.
- Children of any age can be taken on board the helicopter: Under 2 years of age, they fly on the lap of one of their parents. Their presence must still be mentioned at the time of booking. Above 2 years, they are installed on their own seat, which must be booked at the normal fare in accordance with the aviation regulations in force.
- What if I’m alone? You can book this activity if you travel alone in New York! The experience remains superb whether or not you share it with family and friends.
- Plan what you will do after the flight: a helicopter ride over New York is an intense experience that provides a good dose of adrenaline, why not go for a drink or an activity that will allow you to get down to earth and debrief in a quiet place with the people with whom you made the flight?