It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to fly in a helicopter, let alone one with NO DOORS. This is the experience that awaits adventure seekers and photographers when you book a tour with FlyNYON.
I’m a complete helicopter fanatic. Sometimes I think if I hadn’t become a travel blogger, I’d have become a professional helicopter pilot by now. Soaring free above the clouds, hovering only hundreds of feet over mountains or buildings, able to take off and land almost anywhere. Helicopters are incredible machines. While expensive, I try to hitch a ride in one whenever I can for truly unique photography experience.
A helicopter flight with no doors is an exhilarating way to view New York City, to say the least. Your feet literally dangle out of the side of the helicopter as it flies over your favorite New York City sites. In other words, the best foot selfie opportunity you’ll ever get!
FlyNYON Operates out of Kearny Heliport in New Jersy. This is a bit of a pain for multiple reasons. One it’s pretty hard to get to, certainly in terms of time. And it’s a good 3/4 mins flight from the Heliport to Manhattan. This pretty much rules out the shorter NYC Experience Flight as you will almost be turning around before you get there. However, for the NYC Classic, you still get plenty of time over NYC to take in the views of all the best Landmarks.
Getting there is the biggest issue, and it takes a good hour on Public Transport and possibly even longer in a cab. And if you don’t get there 1hr15Mins before the flight they cancel it!
This all adds quite a bit of stress to the pre-flight process. We got to Penn station NY 2Hrs45Mins prior too our flight giving us a good 1hr30 to make the journey. We took the NJ Transit to Penn Station Newark and then Hopped in an UBER for the connection to Kearny. It was $10.50 (Two trips) on the NJ Transit and the Uber was around $7-8. In the total, it took us around an hour so we were in plenty of time to relax at the Hanger
If you are not an Uber User you can get a cab to pick you up from Newark Penn Station Instead and can arrange for one to take you back their too to avoid the LONG cab journey from Manhattan.
It is worth noting that FlyNYON Offer a full transport service from most Manhattan Hotels.
FlyNYON’s Hanger – Here you can relax before the flight, check out their NYC Flight simulator or get some advice from the resident Photo Expert/Camera Rental.
With about 45 mins to go, we were called into our briefing. Here you watch a short video and then a quick question and answer session on the upcoming flight. This is mainly from a safety point of view. Explaining how the flight operates, the safety and restraint systems and what you are and are not allowed to take with you.
You are allowed two photographic devices and this includes your phone. The must both be securely attached and you can not take selfie sticks or anything you can extend out of the cabin. If you are taking your phone they will provide a Wrist grip for you to attach the phone too. Clothing and shoes must all be securely fitted. So, no slip-on shoes, or hats. Essentially you are not allowed anything that could fly out of the cabin…because it WILL.
Any valuables and loose items are stowed away in secure lock boxes and then you are fitted with your climbing harnesses. We were required to have a couple of goes at undoing the quick release by touch alone just in case we needed to in an emergency.
Once all fitted up we were led to the shuttle for the final hop to the Heliport. Here we would be introduced to our Pilot and given our allotted seats.
Once in our assigned seats and securely tethered to the helicopter the Pilot jumped in and began firing up the engines and negotiating with Air Traffic Control. This is when you truly begin to appreciate the precarious nature of your current predicament. You start to look down and think hmmm that will soon be a 2000ft drop…
You are perched right on the edge with seemingly very little to stop you falling out. Yes, you have a 3point belt on but it’s not tight and doesn’t provide the feeling of security. And while you are strapped into a climbing harness that is securely tethered to the aircraft, It too provides no feeling of security. YOU CAN NOT FALL OUT, but I was having a hard time convincing the primitive part of my brain of this fact.
Too late now as the Chopper lifted off and we were away on our trip of a lifetime over New York City.
Up In The Air
Everything we have read had stated the wind up there is brutal. It really can be stated strongly enough though. It was a pretty calm day with low winds on the ground but up in the air, you are brutally beaten by the wind. Operating Camera’s, moving your head, even just keeping your eyes open can be impossible when it’s at it’s strongest.
And for the first 10 mins of the flight, I was pretty useless. The camera was getting fired off plenty but exactly what I was shooting and the chances of any of it being any good were pretty doubtful. It is essential you have your settings right before liftoff as the thought of fiddling with the camera settings was right out.
As the flight goes on this fear settles, the wind and the drop become more normal and you begin to enjoy it. The feet start hanging out the cabin for selfies and by the time the chopper rolled back to the Heliport I had my foot out the Cabin nonchalantly resting on the skid pan like some hardened Air Cavalry Vet…well sort of!
Route Around Manhattan & More
The Flight began with us heading alongside the I-9 towards Manhatten. We then flew up and across the Hudson and into Central Park. Here we were at fairly high altitude and had sweeping views of the park and the City Behind.
After Circling a couple of times to give both sides the best view we descended slightly and headed to mid-town for close-ups of the Empire State, Chrysler and the Sprawl of high rise buildings.
Next up we headed downtown past the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge. Here we ascended for a high altitude view of the Island. This really is the Money Shot. The sort of view that made everything all worthwhile.
It’s important at times like this to try and put the camera down a bit and take it all in. You are in a Helicopter, with the doors off, high over one of the most famous Cities in the world. We then headed down to get up close and personal with the Freedom Tower, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Wall Street and the Downtown Area.
Back To Ground
And that was it! We peeled away from the Statue and headed back to Kearny. I was sure we were short in time, It flew by so quickly, The Flight back was pretty great as we flew low over the docks and industrial buildings of New Jersey before a soft landing at the heliport.
The buzz around the place was very different than the mood before. We Guess we were not the only nervous Passengers. No, everyone was a Buzz about the incredible experience the had just gone through.
Our flight was late December (26th to be exact) and it was seasonably cold at 40 DegF (4 DegC). There are Cold weather policies on the website and we suggest you check them out if you are flying Autumn/Winter/Spring
Back at the Hanger we were relieved of out Harnesses and reunited with our valuables and then that was it we were free to make our way back to New York. We simply reversed the trip with an Uber to Newark Penn and then NJ Transit back to Manhattan.
At first, it’s a bit unnerving to be sitting on the edge of chopper thousands of feet in the air. But you slowly get more comfortable as the flight goes on.
Eventually, I trusted the harness enough to lean out and feel the power of the wind as adrenaline coursed through my veins, shooting photos of the helicopter’s tail rotter.
When the helicopter banks sideways in a turn, you’re looking straight down at the tops of New York City’s massive skyscrapers, the only thing keeping you from plummeting to your death is those straps!
If you find yourself in New York and want to have the experience of a lifetime, make sure to book an epic open-door ariel photography helicopter flight with FlyNYON. You won’t regret it.
If you are not visiting New York anytime soon, FlyNYON also has helicopter rides in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.