Six things I know about flying in New York

This is the latest article in our series about flying in different states and countries. You can read other articles in the series here. If you’d like to write an article on your state, email us: editor@airfactsjournal.com

Not just New York City!

1. New York and Long Island have some of the busiest airspace in the world.

Everyone knows that JFK and LGA are in New York and with some of the busiest, and often the most delayed, airspace in the world. The Class Bravo airspace surrounding the tri-state area is what a friend of mine from the Midwest calls “varsity” airspace, and requires pilots to always pay close attention to it, as well as the many TFRs that pop up around there. What most outsiders do not realize is that both airports are actually on Long Island and located in the borough of Queens, which itself is technically on Long Island, but is part of New York City.

If, like me, you fly from Long Island and want to fly west or south, you will inevitably have to deal with the New York Class Bravo. Flying below it along the south shore of Long Island, you are limited to 500 ft. MSL. A pilot can take off from a Long Island airport and climb to a VFR altitude, say 8500 ft. MSL, and head west and over the Bravo. One interesting fact of the New York Class Bravo is that it only goes to 7000 ft. MSL – not the traditional 10,000 ft. MSL seen in most Bravos.

As busy as the airspace is around JFK and LGA, Long Island has some very busy general aviation airports as well. Farmingdale (FRG) and MacArthur in Islip (KISP) are the two busiest, with Farmingdale falling under the Bravo. However, if you fly eastbound on the south shore of Long Island, you can fly from Jones Beach to Montauk and the route is almost 100 miles of sandy beaches. If you choose to fly the north shore of Long Island you will fly over a rocky coastline and a unique landscape that is dotted with farms and wineries.

2. The birth place of aviation? Okay, international air travel!

Lindbergh
Long Island has a rich aviation history, including the most famous flight ever made.

Hey, John Zimmerman: Long Island is the birthplace of aviation! Okay, how about international air travel? On the morning of May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field airport and pointed his airplane towards Paris, making a successful transatlantic flight. Flying for 33 1/2 hours and covering approximately 3,600 miles, Lindbergh was the first person to fly nonstop from the United States to France. His feat opened up future international air travel between the US and Europe, and now millions of people enjoy the same transatlantic air service Lindbergh did: cramped, hungry, and tired!

Roosevelt Field also hosted Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post, the latter using the airport to start an around-the-world flight in 1931. Roosevelt Field was located about 10 miles from JFK’s present location and unfortunately closed in 1951 to be replaced with a shopping mall, businesses and a college. For aviation buffs, The Cradle of Aviation Museum is located not too far from where Lindbergh started his flight, with a few old hangars still standing, and is worth visiting if in the Long Island or New York City area.

3. New York provides flying diversity.

Look at a New York sectional and you will see that once you get outside the New York City area, much of the state has mountains and wide-open airspace. One of the things I love about flying in New York is that I can leave my home airport (ISP) and head northwest to beautiful Saratoga, New York, or the Finger Lakes, or the border of Canada. Massena International airport (MSS) is right across the border from Canada and has easy access to Ottawa and Montreal if you want to drive, or fly.

Want to fly to Vermont? Fly to Plattsburgh, New York (PBG) and take a ferry over to Vermont. How about lunch on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard? New York borders so many great places to fly – Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont – that one can spend years picking and choosing places to fly to for that $100 hamburger or other day flying trips.

Niagara Falls International Airport is another outstanding place to fly to, especially if you do not have a border sticker or the required documentation to fly into Canada. I believe the American side is easier, faster and just as nice as the Canadian side (sorry, my Canadian friends), and if you really want to, you can walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side for a quick visit.

New York is one of the few places in the United States where you can fly from airports located near ocean beaches, such as Long Island, and fly to mountains, the Great Lakes, Niagara Falls, another country (Canada), and back to the original airport on day trips. Airplanes are the best way to get around and see the true beauty of New York.

4. Fly to Cooperstown or the Finger Lakes and fly a glider.

Most people think of New York as New York City, our pizza (better than Chicago pizza) and our thick New York accents, but head to what we in the New York City and Long Island regions call upstate New York and you will find many place to fly gliders. Cooperstown is accessible by the nice GA airport, Oneonta (N66), and Cooperstown’s own small airport provides gliding opportunities.

The mountains and valleys of the Adirondacks and Catskills provide some very good glider flying weather and winds, places like Wurtsboro (N82), in the southern region of the state and Elmira on the Finger Lakes are great places to fly and visit.

Niagara Falls
New York means more than just Manhattan – there are stunning views like this as well.

5. It is hot, it is cold, it snows, and it gets hot.

Want to ski in the winter? Fly to Lake Placid Airport and ski the famous mountain. There are literally dozens of places to ski in New York and many are accessible by GA. New York sees its fair share of snow in the winter, especially in the western part of the state, so proper planning and caution is required. The same airport in the winter that will leave you stranded, freezing and iced in will have higher density altitudes, afternoon build-ups and lots of bumps because of the terrain in the summer. There is not much flat land flying in the State of New York.

One October a few years ago, I flew into Lake Placid for a business meeting. The day I flew up was a typical clear fall day. Smooth flying and great visibility made the day a joy to fly. On the day of my return back to Long Island, the weather changed dramatically. It was cold and brisk, the airport had low ceilings; there was no on-site clearance. The airport is also surrounded by mountains and terrain. To this flatland Long Island pilot, this presented a host of issues that I do not normally deal with and I decided to wait until later in the day for better weather to depart.

6. New York controllers are the best, period.

Yes, they talk fast and have funny accents (if y’all aren’t from these parts), but if you show a modicum of ability to communicate, listen and follow instructions, they are fantastic. I routinely fly IFR from Long Island to Virginia and other points south from FRG/ISP and almost always get routed directly over JFK. Over the years I have always been treated with the same professional demeanor and attention by a departure controller who is also handling a British Airways 777 and me at the same time. I understand the unique requirements of the New York airspace and sometimes there is a re-route and change, but I cannot think of a time where the controllers weren’t cognizant of my airplane’s abilities and the best way to get me on my way and on my route down V16 or V1.

As long as I have been flying in the New York region, I find the controllers at all levels – tower to approach and departure – to be excellent. Full disclosure: I have found all controllers wherever I fly to be the same. We enjoy the best ATC system in the world and every time I fly it shows. I just have an affinity for my fellow New Yorkers, funny accents and all.

10 Comments

  • Hello sir, my name is Ron and it is so funny that this popped up in my email I fly an Autogyro Cavalon (poor man’s helicopter) and I fly it a lot over 740 hrs. in the last 2 1/2 yrs. and had the opportunity to do the Hudson corridor with some friends 2 years ago and that was great. I recently got a call from the Autogyro people and they asked if I could fly the Cavalon to McAurther for a photo op and interview with FOX NEWS as one of your pilots based there is taking on a dealership for Autogyo. I got my ASEL ticket in 1991 and also have time in Bell 47, CBI300, etc. but NY airspace looks intimidating so my first reaction was to decline. I then talked with Rob and Kristen from Gyro Revolution and Rob agreed to meet me at an airport I was comfortable with and walk me through the NY airspace. We came in from 1N7 Blairstown around the north and although under NY airspace Rob opted for flight following and things were busy so when we got into the downwind at ISP we were asked to do a left 360 for spacing (this doesn’t happen at N13 Bloomsburg where I am based) and we are now #2 to land behind a 737 and were flying a gyrocopter so this was a first for me. Too cool. Our departure due to weather that was building to the north took us back on a southern route along many miles of beaches and under that 500 ft. limit you referred to. Rob was flying so I was able to watch for traffic and just enjoy the beautiful view from 400 ft. You are correct about the NY controllers they handled our gyrocopter the same as the 737 and I am glad I went a little out of my comfort zone to make this trip and appreciate the fact that Rob was willing to do this or I would have missed a very good experience and a fantastic trip. I am looking forward to another trip into ISP in the future to visit Rob and Kristen and see how their new adventure into the world of gyrocopters is coming along. Moral of the story is get outside your comfort zone and learn new things but do it with a safe plan and you will be able to enjoy things like the NYC skyline.

    • Ronald,

      Thank you for sharing that story. I’m so glad you had a chance to enjoy the NY skyline route and the great controllers we have in NY.

  • GREAT article Sal. However, you missed what I believe is also some very interesting information about New York City. I was born on July 4, 1934 and lived on Staten Island until I left for college to become an Aeronautical Engineer to spent 50+ years in the Aviation ‘World’. At one time Staten Island had five (5) airports. When I was growing up there was only one airport; where I had a job washing airplanes and received a flight in an airplane… that’s how I got interested in aviation…became a pilot in the Air Force flying Piper Cub, T-28, T-33, and B-47 aircraft. Later flew T-33, F-84, and F-86H aircraft in the Mass. ANG…and finally owned and flew a Cessna 182…Now a ‘Ground Pounder’, but mentor and dialog with youngsters and ‘oldsters’ on many, many aviation topics!

    • Joel,

      Thanks and that’s good information. My article wasn’t so much a history lesson as just some unique information based on my experience.

      I think you have a great story there and you should put it down and submit it.

  • Sal, I’d like to have a conversation with you sometime to share some aviation ‘stories’ etc. How can we do that? My telephone number is (206) 382-3643…better yet if you give me your telephone number time(s) and date(s) I will call you

  • Flying during the last 7 years out of KART Watertown NY I can identify myself with the author. Flying can be challenging at times because weather but very rewarding also. Want to experience the fall colors? Upstate NY offers beautiful landscapes covered in reds, orange and yellow mixes. You have to try it at least once.

  • Great article, Sal! I earned my private at FRG and now getting ready to take my instrument checkride. I’m getting a little sick of the 172 as it’s all I’ve ever flown and thinking about training in the Cirrus after the instrument. Will you be offering training in your SR22 after you get your CFI?

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