the joyful traveller

Up, Up And Away Over the Big Apple

Smooth, like butter, we were uplifted; we hovered, then we soared above Westchester County.  The blades whooshed overhead, but headphones muffled the sound, and with microphones pulled around to the side of our face, the seven of us could speak to one another.  Our pilot, Anthony Ianni, or as he said, “Tony from the Bronx,” deftly handled the flight-check with the air traffic controllers, maneuvered levers and pushed things on the dashboard.  He did a lot of pilot talk saying things like “Charlie whiskey,” for the letters C and W.  Just like in the movies.

Wing Flight Helicopter Tours enjoys a brisk business carrying tourists, students, couples, and even superstars for scenic rides, or just to get from one place to another quick.  Derek Jeter and A Rod were recent passengers, as was Alicia Keys.  On the carpeted floor of the chopper were rose petals, remnants of a recent job where Tony and a colleague dropped rose petals onto a crowd of attendees at a community event.   

Today’s tour headed to the Big Apple, southward via the East Side, back up north along the Palisades and Hudson River.  Yankee Stadium never looked so grand as it does a mere 2,000 feet above the rafters; then Yonkers, Harlem, Long Island City, the East River Bridges; to our right the United Nations, and FDR Drive.  One remarkable structure that’s a common name on traffic reports is the Spuyten Duyvil Creek connects the Harlem River to the Hudson, and the Swing Bridge that is used for the Metro North Railroad. Its name has a few origins, mostly relating to the Dutch language, but one story says it was inspired by a Washington Irving story about a Dutchman’s attempt to swim across the creek back in the olden days, and do it, “in spite of the devil.”

Now, we’re cruising along the Battery, headed to the Statue of Liberty where Tony circled a few times, giving his passengers an extra thrill and a magnificent view, and a show for the little ants of people walking the paths of Liberty Island; the folks on the little ferries waved at us.  Heading around the tip of Manhattan, headed north, the skies were busier and at one-point Tony kept one eye on a helicopter to our left, who we could see — and then not see — on the radar screen.  A voice interrupted Tony’s narration.  “Does anyone recognize who that is,” he asked.  It had been too muffled to catch it, but Tony followed up with the answer — former Mayor Michael Bloomberg who pilots around the city in his own helicopter.  That was cool.

Heading towards the mighty GWB, one can only think of those passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 that landed directly below.  Our inflatable life jackets were tucked neatly in a fanny-pack-like bag around our waist, but Tony promised before take-off that we wouldn’t need them.  (He was right.)  Along the Palisades, we saw the mammoth castles of the rich and maybe famous, then were whisked back up over the Upper West Side, over Westchester for landing.  Tony brought this roughly thousand-pound flying machine straight down, landing spot on the wooden pad we’d taken off from. Like buttah.  Tony from the Bronx exclaimed, “How lucky am I that I get to do this all day!” 

If you’ve seen Manhattan from the subways, from the rooftops, from cab’s window, and just standing in Times Square, you need one more view.  Besides sightseeing tours, helicopters have been chartered for wedding proposals and aerial photography; flying lessons are also available. Wings Air Helicopters is a 2017 TripAdvisor Award Winner for Excellence.,

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