The top of the Freedom Tower is probably the best place to take photos of New York City. You can’t really deny that claim. I mean it is the tallest building in the western hemisphere after all!
But what if I told you there IS a better view?
Enter FlyNYON. The ultimate photo experience, FlyNYON makes aerial photography over New York City available to all consumers. They take you up in a helicopter over whatever sights you want a bird’s eye view of in New York.
Basically you hang out of a helicopter to get photos like this:
Right now FlyNYON only has flights in NYC and Miami but they have Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco in the works.
My friend Meghan and I chose the NYC Experience, a 15 minute helicopter flight that focuses on lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. FlyNYON recommends this flight for beginner photographers. Aka ME!
They also have longer experiences for more advanced photographers or for those wanting to see Times Square and upper Manhattan.
FlyNYON offers day time flights as well as sunset and night. Because I’m still working on my photo skillz, Meghan and I chose a noon flight when we knew the sun would be directly overhead and thus perfect lighting for photos!
When Meghan purchased our tickets on Black Friday, she chose the Buy Now, Schedule Later option which allowed us to pick our flight at a later time. Because Meghan doesn’t live in NYC, she wasn’t sure when she would be able to make it here so it was really great for us to be able to pick our exact flight at a later date. There was no extra charge for this option and the credits are redeemable for up to 18 months.
We were able to pick our date 2 days before flying. When we saw 60 and sunny in the Saturday weather forecast, we booked our flight on Thursday afternoon. I was surprised that these guys weren’t that busy on a beautiful afternoon in February.
Our helicopter flight left from Kearny, New Jersey, about a 20-ish minute drive from Penn Station. FlyNYON recommends taking NJ Transit to Newark Penn Station and taking an Uber to the hangar from there. But Meghan and I didn’t plan very well ahead of time and messed up the train times so we had to take an Uber directly from New York Penn Station. So yeah, look at the train schedule and plan accordingly! If you enter the exact address of FlyNYON, it is easy to find by car or Uber.
Because it was so warm during our flight, we were able to fly with the doors completely off. Over 45 degrees, they will take the doors off. Between 45 and 25 degrees, they will slide the doors. Under 25 degrees, they keep the doors on but the windows are designed for photography so you will still get a great shot.
Five people can fit in the helicopter at a time plus the pilot. Our flight was Meghan, me and one other guy. All three of us sat on one side of the helicopter. This optimized our flight time because instead of having to go back and forth for both sides of the helicopter to have a shot, we only had to focus on the left side.
So…you literally are hanging out a helicopter. They strap you in with a long cord and a loose seatbelt so you can lean out of the helicopter to get your shots. Meghan was in the middle seat next to me and she had a longer cord attaching her to the helicopter. They told her she would have to unbuckle her seatbelt after takeoff and crawl to the floor next to the seat in order to hang out like me. We were VERY concerned she was not given a crawling lesson! I mean, I’m sorry, but you want her to UNBUCKLE her seatbelt!? My fear of heights was real in that moment.
This was my first time in a helicopter and I had no idea what to expect. During the flight, I completely forgot about my fear of heights mostly because the flight kind of felt like torture. With the doors off, the wind rips through the helicopter. The second I stuck my feet out, they were whipped around by the wind. It was a SERIOUS quad workout to hold them still for photos. The wind had my eyes watering and I looked like this the whole time:
I sort of forgot to focus on my photos because I was so overwhelmed being whipped around by the wind. And when I was taking photos, I was trying so hard to keep my camera and feet still that I completely forgot about my fear of heights!
So while it does kind of feel like torture, it’s also amazing. I mean you are hanging out of a helicopter over New York City! I’ve never seen the city from that view before. We were so close to the Freedom Tower I probably could have touched it! And for an inexperienced photographer like me, these photos are pretty dang good if I do say so myself.
Pro Tip: If you are not a super experienced photographer and plan to use an iPhone, use the photo burst option. Because the helicopter is moving, shaking and windy, at least ONE of the photos in that burst will be clear.
And the burning question…cost?!
Let’s talk price. The NYC Experience flight that I did is $219/person. Meghan bought our tickets (happy birthday to me!) on Black Friday as a 2 for 1. You can use code flysocial for 15% off or check out their Instagram. They’re always offering last minute deals.
My experience with FlyNYON was wonderful and professional from beginning to end. Their emails have a ton of information in them that answer basically anything you’d want to ask. I’m already thinking about when I can go again. It’s not only an amazing experience to be hanging over NYC like that but photos of this flight will make your friends say, “What is your life!?” And who doesn’t want everyone to be jealous?? 😉
And here’s a little Snapchat recap of our day!