Helicopters just for the One Per Cent? Not any more. At least not in New York, anyway, where the so-called “Uber-of-the-air” start-up Blade has opened the skies to both the really and the merely rich. “Before Blade, it cost $6,000 to charter a chopper to the Hamptons,” says co-founder Rob Wiesenthal. “Through our app it’s now $595 per person.” Bargain? Its users seem to think so: the 40-minute flight from Manhattan to upstate New York will be this summer’s busiest route, he says.
And, with backers like Google’s Eric Schmidt, the company is expanding. This year, Blade offered flights from Santa Monica direct to LA music fest Coachella for $595 one-way. Wiesenthal also says his company is working alongside Uber to make e-VTOLs (“electric vertical and landing aircraft”) a near-term reality in New York. Flying air taxis? Basically, yes, though Wiesenthal doesn’t call them that. “They’re not flying cars. Think of them as helicopters that use fans, not jet engines.” Nor does he like the term “air taxi”. At least not yet. “Because we don’t think they’re going to be the price of a ride-share car – not to begin with, anyway.” But they are happening, he insists. “And much sooner than people think.”