New York Airways Collection

Incorporated on August 31, 1949, New York Airways (NYA), one of the first three helicopter carriers certificated by the United States Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), began mail service between New York City's three major airports on October 15, 1952, and on July 8, 1953, inaugurated the world's first regularly scheduled passenger helicopter service. As was the case with all of the helicopter carriers, NYA depended heavily on government subsidies for its economic health, but worked steadily towards its goal of financial self-sufficiency, extending its routes into nearby Connecticut and New Jersey, carrying freight, and doing charter work. In October 1955, NYA signed joint fare agreements with many national and international airlines, promoting their service by making it easier for passengers transferring to and from the major New York City airports to go "all the way by air." As ground traffic in the New York metropolitan area became increasingly congested, NYA, based at LaGuardia Airport, worked closely with the Port of New York Authority (PONYA) to establish heliports on the island of Manhattan, inaugurating service into the West 30th Street Heliport in 1956 and the Wall Street Heliport (at Pier 6 on the East River) in 1960. In December 1956, as part of a campaign to break the color barrier in the airline industry, NYA hired pilot Perry H. Young, Jr.; Young made his first regularly scheduled flight for NYA as a co-pilot on February 5, 1957, becoming the the first Black pilot for a commercial airline in the United States. High operating costs continued to be an issue for all of the helicopter carriers, and in 1958, after continuing criticism from the CAB on the subject of alleged excessive costs and increasing subsidy need, NYA was forced to suspend some services. In 1961 Congress put a ceiling on helicopter carrier subsidy payments. The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair provided NYA the opportunity to add passenger and sightseeing service to and from the rooftop heliport of the Port of New York Authority Building at the Fair. Ever seeking a way to reduce its need for government subsidies (which were eventually withdrawn), in June 1965 NYA entered into operating support agreements with Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Pan American World Airways, whose passengers were some of NYA's biggest customers. NYA is perhaps most famous for its regularly scheduled passenger service from the rooftop heliport atop the Pan Am Building, inaugurated on December 21, 1965. Though undeniably glamorous, the noisy NYA helicopters were not appreciated by many of their midtown Manhattan neighbors. Service to the Pan Am Building heliport was cancelled on February 18, 1968, due to inadequate passenger loads, then was briefly resumed in early 1977 until a fatal accident on May 16, 1977, ended NYA service from the heliport. Already suffering from financial setbacks and rising fuel prices, NYA ceased operations permanently following a fatal accident at Newark International Airport on April 18, 1979, and filed for bankruptcy the following month in May 1979. Richard Wheatland II, born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1923, served in the United States Navy from 1943-1946 as a deck officer on a destroyer-minelayer in the Pacific; after his discharge he did one year of graduate work in government at Harvard University and then attended Columbia Law School, receiving his law degree in 1949. From 1950 to 1952, Wheatland was based in Paris, France, employed by the US Government in a division of the Office of the Special Representative in Europe for the Marshall Plan. Wheatland returned to New York to join New York Airways in January 1953 as the Manager of the airline's Traffic and Sales Department, and soon became NYA's Vice President of Sales and Service. He was married in 1954 to Cynthia McAdoo. Wheatland left the company in 1968 to take a position in his native home of Boston, and died peacefully at his home on June 26, 2009. NOTE: The airline covered by this collection, New York Airways (1951), should not be confused with an earlier New York Airways (1927) which was founded July 8, 1927, operated as a subsidiary of Pan American Airways, and was sold to Eastern Air Transport on July 15, 1931. It should also not be confused with the unrelated but similarly named New York Air (owned by Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air Corporation) which was founded in late 1980 and ceased operations on February 1, 1987, when it merged with Continental Airlines.