NEW YORK - It takes only five and a half minutes for Tyler Babin to travel from Manhattan's west side to John F. Kennedy Airport - a trip that can take an hour by car.

The filmmaker soars over traffic in a helicopter.

"I'm heading to the airport half a dozen times a month, and you know anything I can do to save time during that process is well worth the investment," Babin said.

It's an investment of $195 per flight, and more New Yorkers are doing the same. 

Helicopter flights between Manhattan and Kennedy or Newark airports have surged 81 percent in five years, to nearly 4,400 roundtrips in 2018. And roundtrips between Manhattan and LaGuardia jumped by more than 40 percent.


And now the number of chopper flights is really poised for a takeoff.

In March, a company called Blade expanded operations offering continuous ride-sharing flights between Manhattan and the airports.  

"Not only are you putting more passengers on a helicopter to split the cost, but we have a dedicated aircraft that's going back and fourth all day long," said Will Heyburn, Head of Corporate Development for Blade.

And now Uber is testing a ridesharing service between Wall Street and Kennedy Airport. The Blade and Uber apps allow customers to book a flight on short notice, just like they book a car. 

But two deadly crashes in 18 months are raising concerns about the safety, noise, and emissions of helicopter flights over Manhattan.

In June, a charter helicopter crashed onto a high-rise roof, killing its pilot. 

And five people died when an open-door tourist helicopter crashed into the East River last year. 

Now some officials want Washington to ban non-essential helicopter flights in the city. 

"Clearly unnecessary flights are a threat to quality of life, and also safety of both people in the air and on ground," said City Councilman Mark Levine.

The Federal Aviation Administration opposes the request, saying its regulations ensure flight safety. It's welcome news to commuters like Babin.

Shannan Ferry: When you look down and see people sitting in traffic are you laughing at them? What's going through your mind?

Tyler Babin: I feel their pain! Because I remember those days and I don't wish that on anyone.

Despite the crashes and the critics, it appears travel by helicopter in and out of Manhattan is only going up from here.