A Must-Read for Anyone Who Travels on Airplanes and Helicopters

Mar 12, 2018

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Right up top in the image is the Liberty Helicopters chopper that crashed on Sunday in New York City’s East River, with the loss of five lives. Don’t make the same mistake I made when I flew this same bird last spring.

As I mentioned in my post on Instagram, I had been so excited to fly Blade to Newark Airport (EWR) that I hadn’t paid close attention to the pilot’s critical safety briefing — I had been focused on using every moment to capture photos, instead, given that our flight to Newark was expected to last just five minutes.

Note, though, that Sunday’s crash involved an entirely different type of flight, in which the doors are removed and photographers are strapped in using special harnesses, which made it much more difficult to escape. On Blade flights like mine, passengers are secured using ordinary helicopter seat belts, which can be easily removed.

That said, Blade’s BOUNCE service is relatively affordable, starting at just $195 per person, so it’s entirely likely that some passengers on each flight have never traveled on that particular type of helicopter before — as had been the case for me. Following this devastating loss, I certainly won’t make that mistake again — I’ll put the camera down during any safety briefing, especially when flying on an unfamiliar aircraft, and I recommend that you do the same.

Again, it’s important to note that the mission of the helicopter with tail number N350LH on Sunday was not at all affiliated with Blade — the Eurocopter AS350 was operating a sightseeing/photo flight for FlyNYON, in which the passengers were strapped in using special safety harnesses, which unfortunately make emergency egress a bit more difficult.

FlyNYON issued a statement saying the company was “terribly saddened to acknowledge that its customers were passengers” on the flight. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family members and loved ones of those involved in this tragic event,” the company says, adding that it’s fully cooperating with the investigation into the accident.

TPG managing editor Alberto Riva snapped this ahead of his photo flight on the same aircraft. Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy

In fact, TPG managing editor Alberto Riva traveled on this exact same helicopter last year as well, on a FlyNYON photo flight over New York City. Alberto, like his fellow passengers pictured above, was wearing a harness that was likely similar to what was employed during Sunday’s flight, secured to the aircraft with a removable carabiner.

Air travel remains one of the safest forms of transportation, but regardless of the purpose of your flight — and whether you’re traveling on a tiny Robinson R44 or a behemoth Airbus A380 — it’s critical to always pay attention to the safety briefing. (The crash into the East River was made worse by the capsizing of the helicopter soon after it hit the water, making escape particularly difficult.)

But in any case, since helicopters travel at low altitudes, in the event of a crash you may not have even a second to waste — knowing how to escape quickly can save not only your life, but the lives of fellow passengers as well.

This story has been updated to show that Blade is not involved with the Sunday crash in any way.

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