Chopper flights to airports resume

Wall St. executives can once again take a helicopter directly from Lower Manhattan to two local airports, five months after the service was suspended.

The flights between the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and the J.F.K. and Newark airports resumed March 27 after the city brokered an agreement between the heliport operator and U.S. Helicopter, which runs the airport routes.

U.S. Helicopter faced several obstacles to continuing its service when the city took over the heliport from the Port Authority last Oct. 31, said Patricia Ornst, director of aviation for the city Economic Development Corp.

First, the federal government immediately shut down the airport service because the new heliport operator chosen by the city, called FirstFlight, did not have a security plan. The plan is necessary because those who take helicopters to the airport are screened by the federal Transportation Security Administration at the heliport, bypassing traditional airport security. The Port Authority’s security plan expired when the Port left the heliport, Ornst said.

FirstFlight had a new, approved plan in place by the middle of December, but then disagreed with U.S. Helicopter over the rent U.S. Helicopter would pay to use the heliport, Ornst said. After talks stalled, the E.D.C. negotiated an agreement, allowing service to resume last month.

Taxpayers fund the T.S.A. employees who screen passengers at the heliport, though they screen far fewer passengers there than they would at an airport. Ornst said the T.S.A. screeners are particularly necessary at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport because it is the one the president uses whenever he comes to New York City.

U.S. Helicopter is suffering financially and just announced a special one-way spring fare of $99 for the 8-minute ride to the airports.

— Julie Shapiro