Manhattan Sightseeing Flight in a Small Plane

Last weekend I took my neighbor’s son on his first small airplane ride. We went from Brookhaven (KHWV) to Sky Manor Airport, NJ (N40) via the New York Hudson River VFR Corridor. The Hudson is a popular sightseeing destination for private planes and helicopters. The aviation map below contains most of the information needed to navigate and communicate; similar information is presented on modern GPS moving maps in the cockpit.

New York Terminal Area Chart

Here we are at 400 feet passing Kennedy Airport. Small planes and helicopters stay low and out of the way of jets landing and departing JFK airport.

After clearing the area we climbed to 1,100 feet. The Verrazano Bridge is the first reporting point when entering the Hudson River VFR corridor from the south. At this point and height airplanes are communicating with each other instead of a tower or radar controller.

Verrazano Bridge

The towers rise 693 feet above the water.

Verrazano-Narrows bridge tower

The New York skyline makes for good photos on a haze-free day. Here we are approaching “downtown” Manhattan (as distinguished from midtown and uptown) with Governor’s Island under the nose. The Hudson is on the left and the East River, which can also be flown, is on the right.

Downtown Manhattan from airplane

New construction at the former World Trade Center location.

Downtown Manhattan 2012

One World Trade Center, formerly the Freedom Tower, under construction. When done, it will be 1,368 from ground to roof. They might have already completed it to that height in this photo; I am at 1,100 feet.

One WTC, formerly The Freedom Tower

Mid-town Manhattan featuring the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier museum, with the Concorde supersonic airliner next to it. The Concorde is the white, triangular shaped object next to the white bubble, center dock.

One World Trade Center form the southbound side of the river. As with cars on a street, planes “fly on the right” such that head-on traffic passes on the left. The FAA added a few rules after a plane and helicopter collided; these rules keep airplanes a bit higher than helicopters.

downtown Manhattan

After clearing the area to the south we turn west and proceed to N40, Sky Manor Airport, for lunch. GA is alive and well during the weekend at Sky Manor. My plane is to the right, facing away.


A beautiful Comanche 250 parked beside us. The Comanche was Piper’s flagship airplane in the 1960s and offers excellent performance and bang for the buck in a used airplane.

Comanche 250

The Sky Manor restaurant has good food and a great view.

Sky Manor Restaurant

Heading back to Brookhaven we went GPS direct, intending to fly at 7,500; clouds turned that into 9,500. We picked up flight following from NY air traffic control while climbing out of Sky Manor.

Cruising above the clouds on the way home.

If you don’t own an airplane you can still enjoy the fantastic Manhattan skyline by visiting one of the helicopter tour companies along the Hudson river in Manhattan or by chartering a private airplane in the NYC area.