How I Beat My Boss To The Airport

A BJT writer reached his destination in just 15 minutes, thanks to a Blade urban air mobility shuttle flight in a helicopter.

As determined as my boss, BJT editor-in-chief Matt Thurber, was to win, there was absolutely no way he was going to beat me in a race between the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall and Henderson Executive Airport (KHND).

That’s because he was driving a rented Ford Escape and I was flying in Blade Urban Air Mobility’s (UAM) Airbus EC130, operated by local outfit Maverick Helicopters. In partnership with the National Business Aviation Association, Blade offered helicopter shuttles for attendees at the NBAA's annual convention between the convention center and aircraft static display for $99 one way. The NBAA and Blade pitched the shuttle flights as a demonstration of what Urban Air Mobility can offer.

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Thurber had zero chance of beating me to KHND—it took him half an hour in jam-packed early evening traffic. For me, it was an approximately 15-minute journey, cruising at 130 knots, from the time I climbed into the helicopter outside the north end of the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall and stepped out of it next to Blade’s chalet at the static display.

What Thurber missed in addition to speed was first-class treatment by Blade’s crews, both at the company’s preflight lounge at the north end of the West Hall and at its static chalet. With an already booked flight, check-in consisted simply of showing a Blade attendant a photo ID. Then I was offered my choice of bottled water or a soda as I awaited my flight, sitting on one of three contemporary couches.

The wait wasn’t long before I and another passenger were led out to a blocked-off section of a parking lot where our pilot and helicopter awaited us. After a brief demonstration of how to put on the four-point safety belt, we climbed into the seven-seat cabin, the pilot fired up the light-single helicopter’s 848-shp engine, and we lifted off.

Flying at 350 feet agl, we enjoyed a short ride that provided a beautiful backdrop of the blue mountains surrounding Las Vegas at dusk. After touchdown, we exited the helicopter and were shuttled to the company’s chalet on a Blade golf cart. There, we were again offered a choice of beverages, including adult libations—of which I was able to indulge while Thurber was still making his way to KHND.