Saturday, May 02, 2015

Gotham Air: Wall to Wall Street commute in 14 minutes

Floyd Maxson, assistant chief pilot, prepares to take off for Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters at Linden Airport. 

Interior of one of the helicopters at Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters.

WALL, NEW JERSEY – Imagine skipping the tolls, tunnels and bridges when heading into New York City. In fact, imagine skipping the drive all together, and arriving in less than 20 minutes.

No, teleportation hasn't been invented, but there is a new company that pledges to cut the daily commute into the city in a major way, although it won't be cheap.

Gotham Air is a helicopter charter service that promises to shuttle commuters from Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, about three blocks away from Wall Street in approximately 14 minutes, said Gotham Air owner and CEO Tim Hayes.

The service is set to begin Memorial Day and run until Labor Day.

Ruthie Stoakes, manager of the Monmouth Jet Center at the Monmouth Executive Airport, said the terminal can be used by any privately owned company, and sometimes similar operations have utilized the terminal.

"Adding us to their schedule – we'd love that," she said. "The more the merrier. We're more than willing to work for them," she said.

Time for family

Hayes is no stranger to a commute.

A former Maplewood resident who commuted into the city for work every day, Hayes eventually moved his family from New Jersey to Manhattan to cut that time.

"It was a relatively short commute but I missed dinner every night and I didn't like that," Hayes said. "We're not trying to make people feel like a movie star. We're trying to get people home for Little League, for dinner."

That's not to say the helicopters aren't luxurious, or the tickets cheap.

Gotham Air is encouraging people to buy monthly packages by letting those customers sign up first.

Hayes said he and business partner John Kjekstab, a former helicopter flight instructor, realize that there is a niche demographic the company will appeal to.

For June, the cost of a monthly package is $7,799 for daily round trips from Wall and $6,379 for daily round trips from Morristown Airport.

The cost of the package will depend on how many days are in a month, a company spokesperson said.

Hayes said the ticket cost isn't exorbitant when the cost of tolls, tunnels, gas, and parking daily are factored into the equation.

"It's not for everybody, but someone who drives a BMW 5 or 7 series ... this is not that big of a step up," he said. "It's a premium product for someone who works in Manhattan and is done at 6 (p.m.) and is not home until 8 (p.m.)"

To start, Hayes said the company will fly one commuter trip per morning.

"But as we share our story, we're prepared to do multiple trips a day," Hayes said. "We'll make sure we'll ramp up the service."

Without a package, passengers will be able to purchase a ticket for $179 one way. Passengers who would typically drive almost 90 minutes – without traffic – into the city, could be there in a fraction of that time by way of one of Gotham Air's fleet of seven Bell 407GX helicopters.

The commute

"We're the only brand in the Northeast (to fly this model)," said Hayes, who also added the model makes use of military-grade quiet technology that physically reduces the sound of the helicopter flying.

"It's noticeably quieter when you fly overhead," he said. "We want to be a positive (for) customers and the community. We don't want people to see us as noisy rich people coming in helicopters."

The helicopters seat six passengers and go from the ground to airborne and traveling 150 mph in about 90 seconds.

Is the ferry commute worth the cost?

Hayes formerly worked for ABC's "Good Morning America" and as a concert promoter. Through those careers he became familiar with moving people around quickly via helicopters.

The bills for short rides however, were thousands of dollars.

"The aircraft is expensive but tickets doesn't have to be that much," Hayes said. "(In) the sightseeing business they're able to take people on 16-minute Manhattan tours for $150. Why is it a 16-minute flight costs $150, but $2,200 if you're going on a six-minute (flight) to the airport?"

Hayes reasoned that if a helicopter is chartered for the day, and the pilot spends most of the time on the ground, the cost of the pilot, aircraft and fuel is different than if the service ran all day long.

By flying multiple flights throughout the day, the cost becomes spread out amongst more people, and becomes more manageable.


Trips from Monmouth Executive Airport

One way: $179

Round trip monthly: $7,799

Travel time: Approximately 14 minutes

Currently the Wall commuter service is scheduled to begin on Memorial Day and is committed to being run through Labor Day. With enough interest, the service can continue year-round

Trips from Morristown Airport

One way: $145

Round trip monthly: $6,379

Travel time: Approximately 12 minutes

The company will also offer round-trip charters from Manhattan to the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard and Atlantic City, as well as shuttle services from Manhattan to area airports.

Original article can be found here:

A helicopter is brought out of the hangar for Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters at Linden Airport.