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In its largest service expansion to date, Blade Urban Air Mobility, Inc. (Blade) has launched continuous helicopter flights between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) every weekday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The shared flight service will be the largest urban air mobility (UAM) initiative in the United States and will advance Blade’s mission of continuing to reduce the cost of urban aviation.
“The heavy traffic between urban centers 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.”
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 $195 price is aligned with the approximate cost of an SUV service doing the same route during rush hour.
Blade Lounge West is located only 1,000 feet from Hudson Yards, the largest commercial and residential “city within a city” in the U.S., soon to be home to over 50,000 employees from leading companies such as WarnerMedia, HBO, CNN, Blackrock, KKR, and many more. Blade has a relationship with Hudson Yards that offers exclusive benefits to all tenants.
Blade and American Airlines (American) 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.
On-site at JFK, 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 (originally built in 1962). Hotel guests can immediately arrange for Blade flights to Manhattan or to any destination Blade flies.
In early 2018, Bell partnered with Blade, providing them with a Bell 206L-4 helicopter, which will be used for Blade’s new service (operated by Zip Aviation). The relationship enables Bell to gain a comprehensive 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 electric vertical takeoff and landing (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 of commercial business for Bell. “With the rapid evolution of customers utilizing 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 utilized have one of the lowest noise footprints within the industry. 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.
Blade will continue working with partners such Airbus, Bell, and Lockheed Martin to prepare for an eventual equipment swap of conventional helicopters for eVTOL aircraft. eVTOL aircraft will have reduced noise and environmental footprints as well as lower operating costs. Over time, this gradual equipment swap will result in lower prices for fliers as well as more landing zone options in the future.