I’ve written quite a bit about BLADE lately. They’re the company that offers helicopter services to & from New York, and recently they’ve been in the news for their service expansion.
BLADE is now offering $195 one-way transfers from Manhattan to JFK, LGA, and EWR, and they’re hoping to lower the prices even more in the future.
They’re quickly getting to the point where they can compete with an SUV service in terms of cost, and with helicopter rides taking just five minutes, the time savings can be huge.
One of the key things to understand is that BLADE doesn’t actually operate their own airplanes and helicopters. Instead they’re really a tech company, just like Uber is, and they contract out to other companies to do the flying. They just do the marketing and make the booking process easy.
BLADE helicopter crashes in the Hudson
Yesterday afternoon a helicopter operated by Zip Aviation crashed into the Hudson. Only the pilot was onboard, and fortunately he made it out without life-threatening injuries.
The helicopter wasn’t operating a flight on behalf of BLADE, but rather was being repositioned for refueling (but this was after operating BLADE flights).
Here’s how a BLADE spokesperson describes the incident:
“Earlier today, a helicopter made a safe emergency landing on floats in the Hudson River near the heliport. The pilot was not injured and immediately exited the aircraft.”
It hasn’t been released what exactly happened, though there is video footage of the incident:
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) May 15, 2019
I’m terrified of helicopters
Before I share my further opinions, let me say that I’m terrified of helicopters. I know that might seem backwards given that I’m not scared of airplanes, but there’s something about the science of helicopters that just confuses me (full disclosure: I’m really bad at science, and it was my worst subject in school).
If a plane’s engines stop, it can glide a bit. If a helicopter’s engine stops, it suddenly becomes a rock. At least that’s my understanding.
I’m not suggesting helicopters are dangerous, or that you shouldn’t fly them. Rather I’m just suggesting that they scare me, along with chairlifts, spiders, and the snack mix in Admirals Clubs.
This isn’t necessarily specific to this one scenario, but rather it’s a big picture concern I have with the direction so many “tech” companies are taking.
BLADE doesn’t operate helicopters themselves, but rather they’re a tech company. Fair enough. The issue is that on some level it creates a lack of transparency. When you book with BLADE, everything is BLADE branded — the booking experience, the lounge, and the helicopter.
The reality, though, is that you’re putting your life in the hands of a completely different company you know nothing about. Now, as a matter of good business we can hope that they’re safe and that BLADE is contracting out to good companies because their reputation relies on it.
It’s not that I expect BLADE to fully accept responsibility when things go wrong (at least not directly), but it seems they’re doing very little to acknowledge this happened, and are quick to point out that this was a Zip Aviation helicopter. For example, BLADE doesn’t even acknowledge that this happened on social media.
Thank goodness that there was only one person on the helicopter, and that they didn’t sustain life-threatening injuries. As someone who is scared of helicopters but who was considering this BLADE service for review purposes, this might have put me off doing so for a while.
I realize helicopters aren’t dangerous, but I do have an irrational fear, so…
As we increasingly see companies offering tech services and branding, I’m concerned about the lack of accountability when things go wrong. It’s no different than what we see with Uber, though I think most of us probably expect a slightly higher standard for helicopters than we do for cars.
Do you have any concerns about using companies like BLADE that contract out their flights to other companies you may not be familiar with, or no?