NEW YORK AIRWAYS (1): United States (1930-1931). Originally established as Southern Air Lines on July 8, 1927, the carrier is one of the merger partners involved in the creation of what would become Pan American Airways (PAA). Dormant from 1928, the subsidiary is revived and renamed in the spring of 1930. Equipped with a Fokker F-10 and a Sikorsky S-38B, it inaugurates scheduled flights from Long Island’s North Beach Airfield to Atlantic City on June 1. On July 15, the Atlantic City terminus is extended down to Washington, D. C. via Baltimore with the flying boat. The Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT-64 is placed into service in August.
On July 15, 1931, NYA-1 is sold to Eastern Air Transport that will use the carrier’s Atlantic City gateway as an important stop on its expanding route to Florida.
NEW YORK AIRWAYS (2): United States (1949-1979). NYA-2 is organized in August 1949 and offers charter flights from New York (LGA). During early 1951, President J. O. Senior Jr.’s company applies to the CAB for certification as the nation’s third scheduled helicopter carrier. On December 5, the CAB approves the carrier’s application to provide scheduled rotary-wing service between La Guardia, Idlewild, and Newark Airports and promises to provide it with a five-year permit if it is financially viable for six months. It will not only survive but will eventually become the largest and one of the longest-lived U. S. helicopter airlines.
On March 13, 1952, the CAB formally certifies NYA-2 for service in the New York metropolitan area for the next five years; however, there are no immediate flights due to a lack of appropriate aircraft. When equipped with Sikorsky S-55s, the company is given a contract to operate a mail route between New York City’s three major airports, an operation begun on October 15.
The first passenger-configured S-55s are delivered on January 16, 1953 and two days later the carrier signs a contract with Air Cargo, Inc.
To transfer freight between Idlewild, La Guardia, and Newark Airports. Night mail and cargo operations begin on February 16 and on March 30 it is announced that NYA will begin New York to Connecticut interairport return service on July 1.
A ferry demonstration is held on June 17 between Idlewild, La Guardia, and Newark Airports and on July 1 New York Airways begins the transport of passengers, becoming the first American scheduled helicopter operator to do so. After only a few weeks, the service proves so successful that potential customers must be placed on stand-by.
SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) signs a contract with the company on August 25 for the transport of its passengers between the New York area airports. The rotary-wing operator receives a huge public relations boost on October 1 when Cardinal Francis J. Spellman uses an S-55 to taxi from the Harlem River to Idlewild Airport. An S-55 flies the Idlewild-Newark route on December 11 in a record 11 min., almost half the regular flying time. Ten days later, on December 21, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines, N. V.) also signs a contract to provide shuttle services between the three regional airports for its connecting passengers.
La Guardia to Newark fares are cut to $10 on March 3, 1954. On July 31 the CAB agrees to provide subsidies, but rules that they must be kept reasonable in their amount. New York to Trenton to New Brunswick flights start on August 4 and on August 30 night flights are launched between the three New York airports. Day and night frequencies are initiated on September 2 to Bridgeport, Connecticut, while on October 10, Stamford, Connecticut, joins the route network.
A contract is signed with Railway Express on October 26 for an expansion of helicopter services to Pearl River, New York, partly to rush polio and rabies serums from Lederle Labs to the New York airports. The same day, passenger and freight flights are opened to New Brunswick, New Jersey. On November 11, frequencies are initiated from Westchester County Airport to La Guardia and three days later, on December 5, Railway Express announces a new service to link Passaic and Patterson, New Jersey. Scheduled La Guardia to Rutherford flights commence on December 7.
Service between Westchester County Airport and all of the New York area newspapers is increased on February 15, 1955. A CAB-approved contract is signed with Northwest Airlines on February 18 to provide the trunk line’s passengers with free service between the New York airports and Westchester County Airport. Idlewild-La Guardia-Newark shuttle service is increased on April 25 to 31 flights daily. The next day, Teterboro Airport becomes a destination. On October 2, a contract is signed with Pan American World Airways (1) for the provision of free or cut-rate inter-airport connecting flights for its passengers.
A record 3,720 passengers are carried in May 1956 and frequencies are increased on June 4. New S-58s are acquired and publicly demonstrated on August 4. A ticket office is opened at Stamford, Connecticut, on September 12 and S-58 flights commence on October 6. Two NYA flights are halted on October 26 because of the return to Eastern Standard Time. On December 5, an S-58 with four passengers inaugurates service from La Guardia Airport. The New York area airports are linked to downtown Manhattan via a new heliport on the banks of the Hudson River at West 30th Street.
The 100,000th passenger (cumulative) is transported and the two millionth revenue passenger mile is flown on June 27, 1957. On August 1, NYA begins using pontoon-equipped S-58s on flights to and from the West 30th Street heliport. An S-58 demonstrates the feasibility of air commuting on Long Island at the October 11 MacArthur Airport air show.
The CAB agrees on May 7, 1958 to guarantee 90% of a $1-million loan obtained by the carrier to improve services. New York Airways introduces the 15-passenger, twin-rotor Vertol 44B, the first civilian helicopter to have an airliner-type cabin, into service on May 28. Sightseeing trips over New York City are initially offered on August 24. As has been the case every winter, bad weather disrupts the company schedule late in the year; indeed, nearly 25% of all flights must be cancelled.
On January 27, 1959, NYA-2 applies to the CAB for permanent certification while the Decca-type navigation system is adopted on
February 22 for all company helicopters. President Cummings hails the CAB’s August 31 proposal to grant the company a permanent certificate. All Vertol 44Bs are grounded on September 12 for inspection after a cooling fan failure in one machine.
Enplanements for the year reach 120,000.
On January 15, 1960, as Boeing takes over Vertol, orders are placed for 10 twin-turbine powered Model 107s to replace piston-engine types. The certificate for the New York area routes is renewed on March 19 and summer sight-seeing tours begin again on June 7. On October 25, the company asks CAB approval to temporarily shift its operations from the West 30th Street heliport to the Wall Street Heliport at Pier B.
On July 23, 1961, the company contracts with Lear, Inc., for the installation of automatic flight control systems into its new Vertol 107s; the first of the improved Model 107s is delivered on September 26. Beginning this year, the U. S. Congress comes to question the value of subsidized helicopter service and votes a limitation. Consequently, on October 31, the CAB announces that it will divide equally between NYA, Los Angeles Airways, and Chicago Helicopter Airways the $6-million FY 1963 subsidy voted by Congress. NYA protests the regulator’s plan to cut its subsidy $623,000 to give the other two lines equal shares.
As a result of the subsidy loss, New York Airways is forced to drop two routes in early 1962. The first of five new Vertol 107s commences scheduled flights services on June 28 and stewardess service begins on company helicopters as of July 1. On July 16, after its engine fails, a Boeing Vertol 107 with 22 aboard lands safely in upper New York Bay and is towed to shore. Four days later, on July 20, U. S. representative Hugh Carey begins a campaign with the FAA and CAB to ban the carrier from flying over densely populated Brooklyn, stating it is unsafe and noisy.
On August 27, another Boeing Vertol 107 with 28 aboard also suffers engine failure and safely lands on the East River; it is towed over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs. The next day, Rep. Carey asks a total ban on company flights over land. The carrier reports on October 24 that noise from the 107 s will be greatly reduced when their present rotor shafts are replaced by stronger ones.
San Francisco-Oakland Airlines (SFO-1), having petitioned the CAB for a permanent, unsubsidized operating certificate, argues in its hearings before the CAB in the spring of 1963 that government support is not necessary for a helicopter line to be successful. In its arguments, company officials cite NYA-2 as a prime example of waste and inefficiency, calling it the country’s most expensive helicopter carrier. True or not, the charges will lead to an eventual end of Congressional funding support for all of the rotary-wing airlines.
Pan American World Airways (1) agrees on July 11 to purchase and lease two craft to NYA, which in turn agrees to operate a service between the proposed heliport atop the Pan Am Building and the major’s Idlewild Airport terminal. On October 8, Congress trims the subsidy payments to be made to the nation’s three helicopter carriers. Just after takeoff for Newark from Idlewild on October 14, a Boeing Vertol 107 crashes and burns (six dead). The company suspends operations on October 17 pending the outcome of a CAB report on its first fatal accident; it is delivered six days later and blames a transmission shaft failure for the tragedy. Idlewild-Newark services resume on November 5.
Enplanements for the year reach 246,737, but a $227,890 loss is suffered, including the loss of $56,486 in government subsidy.
Airline employment in 1964 stands at 269 and the fleet includes 6 helicopters. The U. S. Senate, on August 6, rejects a proposal from Senator William Proxmire to cut $4.3 million from federal subsidies to the nation’s three rotary-wing airlines. A Vertol 107 is badly damaged as the result of a September 6 landing accident during a training flight at the international airport.
During heated local debate on the value of a service from the Pan Am Building, NYA-2 testifies on October 7 that it plans to operate a minimum of 90 flights a day from the heliport if it becomes available.
The company now receives backing from both Pan American World Airways (1) and Sikorsky, the former financing two more 107s and the latter providing three new S-61Ns. Work is now completed on the Pan Am Building, which is provided a midtown Manhattan rooftop heliport adjacent to Grand Central Station. Commuter flights are initiated from local airports to a helipad atop the New York Port Authority Building at the World’s Fair. Late in the year, the carrier becomes the first scheduled helicopter line to be granted full IFR certification by the FAA.
Passenger boardings climb 3.6% to 255,951. Revenues are up a significant 17.5% to $2,628,601 and the loss is cut to $189,950.
The workforce is increased in 1965 to 345. In the test of his budget message to Congress on January 25, President Lyndon B. Johnson proposes an end to all federal subsidies for the helicopter airlines effective in January 1968. On March 3, NYA-2 107s and S-61Ns inaugurate demonstration flights from New York (JFK) to a helipad on the roof of Manhattan’s Pan Am Building, 800 feet over midtown. A U. S. Senate committee restores $942,000 in federal subsidies for the lines cut by the House of Representatives on April 25.
On May 30, in response to Congress’ moves to cut subsidy before the president’s 1968 deadline, NYA borrows $1.2 million from Pan American World Airways (1) and $400,000 from Trans World Airlines (TWA), plus private investors. Following receipt of three more Boeing Vertol 107s, regularly scheduled seven-minute commuter flights begin during the early summer. In spite of these successes, Congress ends subsidies to certified helicopter airlines in June.
Rather than see the New York operation closed down, the CAB, on June 25, allows an exemption to Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Pan American World Airways (1). It allows the two majors to not only consummate the loan negotiated in May, but to also purchase 40% of New York Airways’ stock, which provides for break-even needs plus interest on debt. In return, service is extended to the former’s passenger ramps at the metropolitan airports. It is simultaneously revealed that stockholders R. G. Goslet and J. H. Whitney have already lent the carrier $165,000. The service between Manhattan and the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport and La Guardia Airport commences on June 29.
On November 5, the New York City Marine and Aviation Department grants NYA a one-year license to operate from atop the Pan Am Building. The carrier announces, on December 19, a schedule of 35 daily flights to the Pan Am terminal at JFK. The Pan Am Building heliport is officially opened in ceremonies on December 21; Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Robert Wagner, and Juan Trippe participate while Vice President Hubert Humphrey, in a phone message from Minneapolis, gives the signal to turn on the lights. Cardinal Spellman is among the day’s first passengers as direct scheduled flights start between the midtown skyscraper and JFK.
Also during the year, permission is received from the FAA for en route and terminal scheduled operations under IFR conditions. Additionally, an application for permanent certification is pending with the CAB and former Tuskegee airman Perry Young is hired; he is one of the first African-American pilots taken on by a scheduled rotary-wing carrier. Meanwhile, passenger boardings climb 20% to 306,461, a figure that will fluctuate up and down during the remainder of the decade.
On January 3, 1966, the Transport Workers Union threatens to extend a New York City strike to 21 airlines using the regional airports if the city attempts to increase the service by NYA-2. Seven women picket on May 3 to protest the noise coming from the Pan Am heliport; they are counter-picketed by 10 NYA employees. In an effort to cut the noise, Mayor John Lindsey proposes on May 12—and NYA-2 agrees—to cut night and Sunday morning operations from the Pan Am Building. City authorities on December 1 authorize another year of service from the Pan Am Building.
During the year, NYA-2 achieves the highest load factor for any of the scheduled postwar American helicopter airlines, 65%; unhappily, it also finds itself needing to have a break-even load factor of 225% — an impossible feat.
In 1967, the employee population is 307 and the fleet includes 7 helicopters. Service is begun on March 2 from the Pan Am Building and
New York (JFK) to Teterboro. Late in the year, representatives of Sikorsky recommend the sale of the carrier’s Boeing Vertols to Columbia Helicopters.
NYA-2 transports a total of 538,000 passengers and flies 8,000 freight ton-miles on the year, an industry record.
The workforce numbers 252 in 1968. Pan Am and NYA-2 dispute the subsidy amount contained in the new contract to be signed for operations from the Pan Am Building and the helicopter carrier halts operations from that location on February 15.
On March 5, the company reaches an accord with Trans World Airlines (TWA) to continue connecting service between the Wall Street heliport and the local airports. Ten days later, the New York City Planning Commission approves the plans for a heliport at East 61st Street and East River submitted by Pan American World Airways (1), thus overriding opposition from Rockefeller University and New York Hospital.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) ends its subsidy to NYA-2 on April 25, citing the rotary-wing carrier’s failure to obtain $1 million in additional financing. NYA-2 pledges to continue service between the three local airports and the Wall Street heliport. A new contract is signed between the company and Pan American World Airways (1) and Trans World Airlines (TWA) on May 2 and service is resumed or expanded between the Wall Street area and JFK and La Guardia.
On August 3, the CAB authorizes NYA-2 to resume service from the Pan Am Building by approving control of the operation by Pan American World Airways (1) and Trans World Airlines (TWA); it is announced that the service will resume in mid-September.
Plans to restore service from the skyscraper are placed in doubt on August 21 as Pan American World Airways (1) postpones its commitment to buy a fleet of S-61s. The Sikorsky craft had failed to meet its contract requirement of FAA certification for operation from the building. Consequently, only three of the Boeing Vertol 107s are now sold to Columbia Helicopters.
The year’s customer bookings drop to 408,000. Revenues are $5.25 million.
Fifty-seven employees are laid off in 1969. Despite an offer of $200,000 per year to keep its operations at the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal, NYA-2, on February 8, agrees to shift its JFK and La Guardia operations to the American Airlines terminals under a new 10-year contract.
The FAA grounds two Boeing Vertol 107s on July 1 because of an engine failure to one; modifications are ordered made on the General Electric CT-58 turbine engines.
An S-61 with 13 aboard crashes at New York (JFK) on July 15 as it lifts off on a shuttle flight to Newark (three dead). Negotiations continue with Pan American World Airways (1) for resumption of service from the Pan Am Building. The major agrees on August 29 to increase its subsidy investment by up to $260,000 and to advance the funds necessary to purchase three new S-61s.
On October 19, Pan American World Airways (1) receives a one-year permit to take over and operate the heliport at 61st Street and East River.
On November 19, NYA-2 asks CAB permission to suspend service on December 3 because its Boeing Vertol 107s are too expensive to operate; the line pledges to resume operations using a different type of craft. On December 12, the owners of the Pan Am Building report progress in negotiations to resume service from atop their skyscraper.
Enplanements are off 50% during the 12 months to 251,253 and a $3.3-million loss is suffered.
To save the carrier, Warren A. Fucigna is appointed vice president/gen-eral manager early in 1970. In February, two Sikorsky S-61 Mk.2s are acquired and employed to start every-half-hour shuttle flights between Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark Airports on March 3. The operation brings a turn in fortune, as a third backup Sikorsky is obtained in April. Plans to resume flights from the Pan Am Building are not pushed forward.
Passenger boardings jump 6% to 267,290 and a $700,000 net profit is earned.
The four remaining Boeing Vertol 107s are sold to Columbia Helicopters in 1971. Two de Havilland Canada DHC-6-100 Twin Otters are placed into service on operations between the three New York Airports.
Enplanements for the year swell to 332,112, but skyrocketing expenses force a $234,749 loss.
The 200-employee company enjoys its best year in 1972. With aircraft reliability now at 99%, the load factor is a healthy 48%
Customer bookings jump 11.2% and reach a peak of 374,000. Perhaps even more pleasing to its stockholders and backers is a $98,755 net profit—the first and only one NYA-2 will ever earn.
Operations continue apace in 1973, but enplanements decline to 367,699. The workforce is reduced to 187 in 1974 and the carrier’s 4 Sikorsky S-61s fly 7% fewer passenger (343,644).
There are no changes in the workforce during 1975. The company’s four helicopters continue to operate between Manhattan, Morristown, New Jersey, and New York’s three major airports. Unhappily, passenger boardings decline 18.2% to 281,199. Freight is also level at 3,000 FTKs.
The employee population is increased by 11.8% in 1976 to 209. Trans World Airlines (TWA) sells 16% of its shareholding to John Hay Whitney.
Customer bookings accelerate 1.8% to 285,491. The same amount of cargo is hauled this year as last.
Services to the Pan Am Building rooftop heliport are resumed in January 1977. With fares of $15, the company is able to operate 100 daily, 5-8-minute flights to Kennedy and Newark Airports. These continue with some success until May 17. Atop the Pan Am Building that day, an S-61L landing gear fails, forcing the aircraft to roll and snap off its main rotor blades; four people are killed on the roof and one on the street by falling debris. Flights are thereafter briefly suspended for lack of passengers. Enplanements for the year total 266,159.
In 1978, President Fucigna oversees a workforce of 185, which supports and operates three Sikorsky S-61Ls. Passenger boardings accelerate 5.8% to 282,546. The airport to downtown shuttle continues until April 1979, when another S-61L crash, this one at Newark Airport on the 18th, forces the company to cease operations and declare bankruptcy.