W. 30th St. tourist helicopter flights to end Thurs.

The News Leader

March 31, 2010 11:50:05 AM PDT
Tourist helicopter flights at the West 30th Street Heliport will end, by court decree, on April 1. However, the two helicopter operators based at the heliport said neither has flown sightseeing tours from there for months.

Liberty Helicopters, which was the biggest operator of sightseeing tours at the heliport, said they stopped flying tourists from there at the beginning at the year.

The charter service now bases all their sightseeing excursions from Pier 6, the Wall Street Heliport located in Lower Manhattan.

Air Pegasus, which also once flew a number of tours from the West Side, said they also rebased their sightseeing operation to Pier 6 months ago.

Liberty will still fly commercial flights, including a newly launched charter service to New Jersey, from the West 30th Street helicopter.

Under an agreement reached two years ago in Manhattan State Supreme Court, the West Side heliport can continue operating commercial, government or emergency takeoffs and landings for the next two years.

The heliport is scheduled to close at the end of 2012, when it is supposed to move to a yet-to-be-chosen site. If plans aren't in place for a new site by then, the heliport could stay open until 2014.

The agreement settled a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Hudson River Park, the advocacy group that raises money to support the park.

The group sued the Hudson River Park Trust, a state authority, claiming the very existence of the heliport on the land side of the park violated the law that created the park.

The Hudson River Park Act of 1998, which created the park and the Trust, permits a heliport in the park, but only as a non-tourist/non-recreation heliport for commercial and emergency transportation.

The Liberty helicopter that collided with a small plane over the Hudson River last summer took off from the West 30th Street Heliport.