Site of the Pan Am Helipad in New York City, New York

by Tammy Levent

Atop the MetLife Building in Midtown Manhattan, a Pan American World Airways helipad sits unused. The helipad was used in the 1960s to carry up to 20 passengers for an affordable airport shuttle by helicopter to the regional LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, and Newark airports. This service was often complimentary when flying Pan Am. Backlash from nearby residents over the excessive noise closed the helipad for a decade. When it reopened a decade later, a disaster occurred when five were killed and eight wounded by a violent helipad landing. Rooftop landing are now only allowed at hospitals.

Key Takeaways:

  • In the mid 1960s, a helicopter taxi service operated on the roof of the Pan Am building in Manhattan.
  • The helicopter taxi service was convenient for commuters but disruptive to surrounding businesses.
  • After a brief revival in 1977, the taxi service came to a tragic end following a horrific rooftop accident.

“The May 16th disaster put the helicopter contracting company out of business and spelled the end for the Pan Am helipad.”

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