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Helicopter company takes high road on avoiding commuter traffic

Updated October 13, 2021 - 7:43 pm

Traffic-burdened cities are looking high and low to solve mobility issues.

Those attending this week’s National Business Aircraft Association Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition got to see both.

While some at the Las Vegas Convention Center had the opportunity to ride The Boring Co.’s underground transit system — envisioned as a possible future solution to traffic jams in Las Vegas — others took the high road, commuting from the Convention Center to Henderson Executive Airport in helicopters. The trip cost $99 each way.

New York-based Blade Urban Air Mobility demonstrated its service of delivering passengers on short hops in traffic-choked cities at the convention, which ends Thursday.

Will Heyburn, Blade’s chief financial officer, said what prospective customers and partners are seeing in Las Vegas is only the first stage toward the development of quiet and environmentally friendly electric aircraft.

At the show, Blade, working with Las Vegas-based Maverick Helicopters, shuttled six passengers at a time from a temporary helipad in the parking lot outside the West Hall of the Convention Center, where other exhibitors showed off aviation-related services and equipment, to the Henderson airport.

“The idea is we’ve got to get started today,” Heyburn said. “We can’t wait until that future happens and we can make a lot of progress with what we’re doing using conventional technology.”

In addition to advocating convenient commutes, the company works to save lives.

Heyburn said Blade is the largest transporter of human organs in the United States.

“Not only can you save folks a lot of time (in organ transport), but you’re actually going to improve the efficacy of the transplant operation itself by making sure that the organ spends less time in transit,” he said. “The more time it spends out of the human body, the less likely the transplant is to be successful.”

Show managers could not be reached to discuss how many attendees and vendors attended. NBAA-BACE alternates convention sites between Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, every other year. The Orlando show was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the nonprofit aviation organization opted to bring the show to Las Vegas in 2021 after being here in 2019.

Among the show attendees was Mary Miller, vice president of industry and government affairs for Signature Flight Support, a worldwide fixed-base operator with operations at more than 200 airports.

Miller said it was important for her to attend the NBAA-BACE show because “it brings together the entire aviation community.”

Signature, which has an operation at McCarran International Airport, provides hangaring, maintenance and repairs and fueling services for private aircraft. Sustainable fuels was one of the major topics in the show’s educational programs.

“It’s like speed-dating … you can get a lot done in three days,” Miller said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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