In its largest service expansion to date, BLADE Urban Air Mobility Inc. has launched continuous helicopter flights between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) every weekday from 7:00am to 7:00pm. The company explains this shared flight service will be the largest Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiative in the United States.
“The heavy traffic between urban centres and area airports is a key point of friction in city life,” said Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of BLADE. “Our UAM service begins to remedy this issue at a reasonable price today, while paving the way for even more affordable solutions tomorrow driven by our partners’ next-generation electric aircraft.”
Blade explains that more than 75 per cent of its first-time helicopter passengers have never flown in a helicopter before. Flights will operate between Blade Lounge West at the West 30th Street Heliport and JFK airport, with ground transportation included between the JFK helipad and all commercial terminals. Blade explains the US$195 price is aligned with the approximate cost of an SUV service doing the same route during rush hour.
Blade Lounge West is located 1,000 feet from Hudson Yards, described as the largest commercial and residential “city within a city” in the United States, soon to be home to over 50,000 employees from companies such as WarnerMedia, HBO, CNN, Blackrock and KKR, among others. Blade has established a relationship with Hudson Yards that offers exclusive benefits to all tenants.
Blade and American Airlines recently announced that fliers who are connecting to, or arriving from, an American flight at JFK can be transferred from plane to helicopter using American’s Five Star Service. This arrangement provides an on-tarmac connection and can be purchased using the Blade app or directly from American.
On-site at JFK, Blade will also have a presence in the lobby of the soon to be opened TWA Hotel, which is a redo of Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center (originally built in 1962). Hotel guests can immediately arrange for Blade flights to Manhattan or any destination that the company flies.
In early 2018, Bell Flight partnered with Blade, providing them with a 206L-4 helicopter, which will be used for Blade’s new service (operated by Zip Aviation). The relationship, explains Blade, enables Bell to gain an understanding of the passenger, aircraft, and the infrastructure requirements for UAM in the interest of applying learnings to forthcoming helicopter models as well as next-generation eVTOL aircraft.
“Helicopter commuting is becoming essential in cities where traffic congestion is a significant problem and Bell is providing cost-efficient and reliable aircraft as a solution,” said Susan Griffin, executive vice president, commercial business, Bell.
Blade explains all flights will follow New York City noise abatement routes, altitudes, and best practices; and that certain municipalities in the New York area have designated the Bell 206L-4 a “Not Noisy” aircraft classification.
In early February, Blade entered into a similar arrangement with Sikorsky’s Associated Aircraft Group (“AAG”), a division of Lockheed Martin, where AAG is providing a Sikorsky S-76 C+ for UAM in the New York area starting in Spring 2019.