BLADE Operating Standards and Flight Safety FAQs
How BLADE Selects Its Operators
Your safety is our top priority. The operators who own, manage, and maintain aircraft in our accessible fleet have been specifically chosen to work with BLADE based on consistently high safety standards, industry leading equipment maintenance programs, and conservative operating protocols. They have been vetted by BLADE and third-party rotorcraft industry experts and are audited by our Dedicated Safety Team (see bios below) on a quarterly basis. All of our operators are subject to regulation under FAA 14 CFR 135, which prescribes a much higher level of oversight by the FAA over BLADE flights versus operations in privately owned and operated helicopters.
Each core operator must pass comprehensive safety evaluations including:
- In-person audits of flight departments including review and inspection of General Operations Manuals, Safety Management Systems, pilot training and maintenance practices, and compliance with FAA and DOT record keeping requirements.
- Confirmation of adequate insurance coverage, as well as certificates of insurance naming Blade as an additional insured on the operator's liability policy and indemnification agreements.
- Operators must also meet Blade's standards for flier experience and operational efficiency: Blade branded aircraft with "as-new" condition interiors and exteriors and required use of Blade's operator dispatch and accounting dashboard technology.
Blade has adopted internal procedures for weather cancellations that are often more stringent than FAA minimum requirements to further reduce the likelihood of incidents and unpleasant or turbulent flight experiences.
All passengers must supply a valid government ID for check-in at all BLADE departure points. BLADE digitally verifies the names of all passengers, records flier weight, and determines the dimensions and weight of baggage to ensure that they fall within the specifications of the operator and FAA mandates. BLADE also assists operators in arranging passengers in specific seats within aircraft based on considerations for center-of-gravity and size or weight of the individuals flying. Pilots make the final determinations based on the aforementioned assessments.
BLADE trains all of its on-the-ground representatives in "fit-to-fly" passenger assessments. We reserve the right to prohibit passengers from flying who are unruly, intoxicated, disruptive, or otherwise unfit to fly in the sole determination of BLADE and/or its operators. Our in-lounge Customer Experience Team ("FX Team") is trained to make recommendations to our operators. Cigarette smoking, electronic cigarette smoking, and vaping are prohibited in the BLADE Lounges and on aircraft.
A Step Above in Safety Standards
As part of Blade’s commitment to promote a culture of safety for employees and fliers, Blade conducts regular training of ground staff in connection with ground operations and procedures at heliports, airports and FBOs (private airport terminals) to prevent incidents when loading and unloading aircraft.
Blade has adopted internal procedures for weather cancellations which are more stringent than FAA minimum requirements to further reduce the likelihood of incidents and unpleasant or turbulent flight experiences.
Blade has hired a Fixed-Wing Safety Inspector to perform both in-person and remote audits checking safety, standardization, operations, safety management systems, and emergency response protocols.
Blade has hired a Chief of Safety to conduct and oversee these preventative audits, as well as lead any post-incident return-to-service audits.
Highlights of the Tarmac Safety Policy:
Staff are trained on:
- Communications with all ground crew and aircraft crew by airport and heliport managers
- Which zones they can and can not enter, especially when an active aircraft is on the landing pad
- Direct communications with all passengers prior to boarding, while traveling and when "deplaning"
- Situational awareness, including the changes brought on by weather, or when working with aircraft crew for the first time
Frequently Asked Questions
Seaplanes utilized by BLADE have two pilots and instrument capability ('IFR'). IFR technology enables a greater ability to fly in inclement weather, reducing the frequency of weather cancellations.
Additionally, any passenger over 200 pounds will be more comfortable on a seaplane as they are generally more spacious than helicopters. Seaplanes also have greater flexibility for baggage dimensions.
BLADE's New York-based seaplanes can only depart or arrive on the East Side of Manhattan. If your ultimate destination is on the West Side, you will have a faster door-to-door arrival if you choose to fly to BLADE Lounge West by helicopter (or BLADE Lounge Wall Street by helicopter if your ultimate destination is TriBeCa or the Financial District).
Finally, with respect to safety, the incident rates for seaplanes versus helicopters is statistically insignificant for passenger operations in the contiguous U.S.
All helicopter, seaplane, and land plane flights sold by BLADE on a by-the-seat, crowdsourced, or charter basis are operated on jet turbine powered aircraft. Each BLADE operator is vetted for safety and reliability to ensure the highest level of service.
Twin-engine helicopter designs are adopted largely for the ability to carry a heavier aircraft fuselage, including a quiet cocoon cabin, as well as to maximize passenger and luggage weight limits, not for operational redundancy from a safety perspective.
Typically, BLADE's operators will make the choice for you based on the type of aircraft used. Cabin class helicopters such as the Sikorsky S-76 are always flown with two pilots for all operations.
BLADE will cancel a flight when our team believes the flight may experience an above average level of turbulence. This is not an issue of safety, but rather a precaution to ensure passengers do not feel uncomfortable.
BLADE will also cancel a flight when there is a reasonable chance that weather at the ultimate destination may cause a flight to be diverted to an airport or heliport significantly far from the scheduled destination.
While weather diversions always remain a possibility regardless of our meteorological expectations, BLADE takes it upon itself to obtain ground transportation upon landing to get fliers to their final destinations.
Yes. While most people believe helicopters cannot fly without engine power, they in fact can safely glide for sustained distances in a safety procedure called auto-rotation. Comprehensive auto-rotation exercises are completed by all FAA certified pilots during training.
Less than 10% of incidents involving helicopters reported to the FAA involve passenger helicopter operations (excluding sightseeing and doors-off flights) versus other types of helicopter missions. The vast majority of incidents occur when helicopters are conducting missions such as pilot training exercises, aircraft repositioning, non-commercial personal flying, and utilities/construction work.
There has not been a non-sightseeing Part 135 (on-demand commercial air carrier) helicopter accident in New York City in the last 18 years (the period in which data is easily accessible from the FAA). It is estimated that there are approximately 3 fatal accidents for every 1 million Part 135 helicopter flight hours, according to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team, an affiliate of the FAA and the NTSB.