We arrive swiftly at the dockside heliport in our speedy yellow cab, bursting to defy gravity.
There are about 11 other high flyers already in attendance, mostly Latin-Americans or Europeans, tourists like us, looking for an all-time high in this city where monumental skyscrapers and thrill-seeking enter a league of their own.
Once registered with passports, e-tickets and bag checks scrutinised, we watch a safety video while being kept in designated holding pens according to group weight. The three of us, my husband, 12-year-old son and I, along with a lanky German teen and his Dad, are escorted, James Bond-like, along a yellow-lined path on an above-water airstrip to our waiting black helicopter.
I note upon being ushered in the front seat, with a frisson of fear, that the pilot looks very young. He introduces himself with a handshake, but with the propeller whirring and excitement building, his name goes over my head. I just smile as he confirms communications via microphone and asks us to fasten our seatbelts and place our headphones over our ears. I turn to my husband and son, who are in the backseat next to the amiable Germans.
We clutch hands and eagerly await liftoff.
Our New York helicopter ride begins!
Thankfully, my nervousness about the pilot’s tender age is ill-founded. He manoeuvres the craft off terra firma like an old hand and we are up, up and away in the blink of an eye or flick of a ‘go very high, very quickly’ switch. It’s an adrenaline-boosting exercise already.
Traversing the wide expanse of the choppy Hudson River past imposing waterside buildings, we head immediately towards our lady in waiting, the evergreen Statue of Liberty. We nose down a little for a closer look at the lofty beauty. She’s a picture of austere loneliness atop her soaring concrete mount, but our introduction is short and sweet, as it’s ‘bye-bye Liberty’ and ‘hello Manhattan’ as our exhilarating New York helicopter ride continues.
Manhattan from above.
The 22-kilometre-long Island is a concrete jungle of densely stacked skyscrapers, as deep as they are wide. It’s a breathtaking spectacle from on high.
Skirting over the skipping rope-esque George Washington Bridge, we spy a clutch of unmistakable edifices, including the gorgeous Empire State Building and my favourite Deco darling, the Chrysler Building. We are close, but not quite enough to almost touch the spiky tip of its perfect silver spire.
New Yorkers, understandably, are a little touchy about low-flying aircraft approaching their landmark structures. Speaking of which, the new 104-storey Freedom Tower (or One World Trade Centre) asserts imposing defiance in its tall, slender form, encapsulating curved prismatic glass and steel.
Our adroit pilot, whose name I later discover is Alex, zooms off with military precision towards the startlingly wide and leafy expanse of greenery that is Central Park.
It cuts a verdant swath through endless rows of buildings between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. A splendour to stroll throughout on a such a perfect summer’s day, the priceless 341-hectare parkland provides an eye-catching contrast between the built and natural environment from our bird’s-eye perch. It is quite literally a highlight of our helicopter ride.
We feel lucky and also astute that we have seen so much so soon from such an illustrious vantage point. Forget schlepping from one landmark to the next with a cast of thousands. A New York helicopter ride is something to seriously consider for both visitors and locals alike. There is nothing else like it!
Close-range air travel is a sightseeing boon when time in the Big Apple is at a premium. Our landing is silky smooth. We’re back on planet Earth in surely the shortest 15 minutes or make that 12, to be precise, on record, somehow sated yet with a taste for more. Time truly does fly when you’re having fun.
- Viator’s Big Apple helicopter tour is operated by Liberty Helicopters from Downtown Heliport, near Battery Park and Wall Street.
- The joy-ride attracts prepaid fees of $US199^ per person, but security fee/taxes of $US35 per person are also payable upon arrival at the heliport.
^ Prices may vary. Consult viator.com for full details.