Blade Urban Air Mobility is introducing continuous helicopter flights between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy airport every weekday from 07:00 to 19:00. The shared flight service will, it claims, be the largest urban air mobility (UAM) initiative in the United States and will advance Blade's mission to reduce the cost of urban aviation.
“The heavy traffic between urban centres and area airports is a key point of friction in city life,” states Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal. “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.”
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. The US$195 price is aligned with the approximate cost of an SUV service performing the same route during rush hour.
Blade Lounge West is located 1,000 ft from Hudson Yards, a large commercial and residential ‘city within a city’ soon to be home to over 50,000 employees from companies such as WarnerMedia, HBO, CNN, Blackrock and KKR. Blade has a relationship with Hudson Yards that offers exclusive benefits to 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 enhancement provides a seamless, on-tarmac connection and can be purchased using the Blade app or directly from American.
At JFK airport, Blade will also have a presence in the lobby of the soon to be opened TWA Hotel, an ambitious reimagination of Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Center, which was originally built in 1962. This will enable hotel guests to easily book Blade flights to Manhattan or to any destination Blade flies.
In early 2018, Bell provided Blade with a Bell 206L-4 helicopter, which will be used for its new service and operated by Zip Aviation. The relationship enables Bell to gain a comprehensive understanding of the passenger, aircraft and the infrastructure requirements for UAM with a view to applying this knowledge 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 we are providing cost-efficient and reliable aircraft as a solution,” says Bell executive VP Susan Griffin. “With the rapid evolution of customers utilising our aircraft for commuting services, Bell continues to invest in product enhancements and new technologies to shape the future of air transportation.”
All flights will strictly follow New York City noise abatement routes, altitudes and best practices. The Bell helicopters being utilised have some of the lowest noise footprints within the industry.
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.
Blade will continue working with partners such Airbus, Bell and Lockheed Martin to prepare for an eventual transition from conventional helicopters to eVTOL aircraft. eVTOL will have reduced noise and environmental footprints as well as lower operating costs. Over time, Blade believes, this gradual equipment swap will result in lower prices for fliers as well as more landing zone options.