Gotham Air helicopters reaching new heights with Westchester service

Tim Hayes, CEO of the commercial helicopter service Gotham Air, has spent most of his career as an entertainment promoter. So it’s not surprising that he seemed pretty nonchalant when talking about his work with bands like The Rolling Stones and his friendship with Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses.

It wasn’t until Hayes started talking about astronauts that the fan in him emerged. Actually, it was one astronaut in particular — Buzz Aldrin, who recently took a ride in one of Hayes’ choppers from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Manhattan and tweeted a hashtagged shout out to Gotham Air.

Hayes’ new business venture, which started this past February, has already taken off with customers, who range from the moonwalking Aldrin to state delegations to CEOs all looking for 6-minute rides from metro airports to Manhattan and back. Now the company is offering transportation from Westchester County Airport to Manhattan, starting at $179 per trip. Hayes said he hopes to bring the price down to as low as $99 if the flight grows in popularity.

He is a self-described aviation history nerd and that is in part what inspired him to start Gotham Air. Hayes cites Los Angeles Airways, which ran 17 flights daily for 34 years. The company billed itself as the “world’s first helicopter airline,” a form of transportation that working professionals in the mid-20th century could afford, he added. But, he says, economical helicopter airlines eventually dissolved and over the last 20 years, commercial chopper use has morphed into an elite service reserved mostly for business executives and people in show biz.

Still, Hayes says, “This isn’t some radical, super-exclusive mode of transportation.”

So he started looking into “How did it run then and what’s different today?” What Hayes found is that “most of the reason why it’s so expensive is because the helicopter sits on the ground most of the day. It’s waiting for the CEO of Pepsi or the rock star to call….What if the helicopter instead of doing one or two trips a day was doing 15 trips a day?”

By filling up the six or seven passenger seats of the company’s seven helicopters — Bell 407s in two versions and one EC130 — and increasing the number of trips per day, the price could go down.

“Obviously, it’s priced for someone who’s had some successes in business. But you don’t have to be a Rockefeller,” Hayes acknowledges. “I go to those people and say, ‘What  if I can give you 500 hours of your life back every year? Is that worth a little bit of money?’ (The service) gives people something that is precious, which is their time.”

Gotham Air’s fleet is available for charter service.

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