On This Day In Finance: July 9 - New York Airways Launches First Helicopter Service

By Joseph Nguyen | July 07, 2009 AAA

On July 9, 1952, New York Airways launched the first ever helicopter passenger service in the United States. New York Airways was originally founded as a mail and cargo carrier but saw a potential niche market in scheduled passenger service and commenced passenger operations in 1953. The company used modified Sikorsky S-55 military helicopters when it began - a rather noisy and small helicopter. In the years ahead, advances in technology allowed New York Airways to use a more civilian-friendly helicopter such as the Boeing-Vertol CH-46.

One New York Airways goals was to be able to ferry passengers between the downtown core and major airports like the JFK airport. The plan would create heliports in downtown New York, that would cater mainly to executives and businessmen who had the resources to pay for the service and who were on tight schedules. Unfortunately, the market never really developed as they hoped at the time, and most of the heliports opened were closed by the 1970s. Today though, a Downtown Manhattan Heliport is commonly used by high profile executives on Wall Street and for the delivery of time-sensitive documents.

In its best years, New York Airways had partnerships with 24 international and domestic airlines flying to destinations such as the Wall Street Heliport, Newark Airport, JFK Airport, and others. The company faced a major setback in 1977 when a landing gear failure on one of its Sikorsky S-61 helicopters caused its rotor blades to tip over and maim four passengers. In addition to this public relations nightmare, an energy crisis in the 1970s severely hurt the company's profitability, and eventually the company was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1979. (Look at some past recessions and energy crisis' in our article, A Review of Past Recessions.)

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