The last helicopter on the Pan Am Building

Since 1981 it’s been owned by Met Life (though the Met Life sign didn’t go up until 1991)—a 60-story skyscraper behind Grand Central Station. But in 1963 it opened as the Pan Am Building, becoming sort of a symbol of post–World War II, jet-age New York City. 

Panambuilding3 Too bad the Pan Am Building lacked the beauty and grace of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings and was never especially beloved by New Yorkers. 

But it did have one distinct amenity: a helipad on the roof. A company called New York Airways regularly offered seven-minute copter service to JFK and LaGuardia Airports.

The copter shuttle operated in the 1960s and then started up again in 1977—until one helicopter’s broken landing gear caused another copter to tip over and kill four passengers waiting to board. A fifth person, a pedestrian, died when the rotor blade fell off the roof and tumbled all the way down to 43rd Street.

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19 Responses to “The last helicopter on the Pan Am Building”

  1. oscar Says:

    i hate that building

  2. goodman Says:

    It is only the Met Life building to non-native New Yorker’s. The same people who refer to Sixth Ave as the Avenue of the Americas and the Triborough bridge as the RFK Bridge.

  3. Michael Ring Says:

    I have never seen the stripes on the lower level of the building. I guess that is like a “do not go here” sign for helicopter pilots.

  4. Greg Says:

    It changed names in 91, not 81.

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Right, it’s a little confusing. The Met Life sign went up in the early 90s, but they already owned the building since the early 80s.

  6. Meseret Hailu Says:

    just i need a pan firend and good relation siph plece writh me

  7. ray adkins Says:

    i am not a native new yorker, but it will always be the pan am building to me. i have taken that helicopter ride many years ago.

  8. eamon veaney Says:

    I was reminded of this by watching Coogan’s Bluff set in New York in 1968. Coogan(Clint Eastwood) arrived and left in this helicopter with his prisoner. I flew on it once in 1977 fortunately before the horrific accident.

  9. What is Birmingham and how did I get here? « khoros Says:

    […] 2012 […]


    Does anyone recall the name of the “pedestrian” killed at the corner of Madison and 43rd? I do. I don’t know why but it always stuck in my mind that her name was Ann Barncott and she was a 29 year old woman who had moved to NYC to start a new life. That life was tragically snuffed out in one instant of literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the fragment of a rotor blade struck her on the neck, killing her instantly.

    Note: Not positive about the spelling of her last name.

  11. A. Berzins Says:

    I do not know the name of the woman. I had heard from an acquaintance of mine that she and a colleague were at lunch that day and that the colleague had to buy a greeting card. “Ann,” if that is her name decided to wait outside rather than go in the store. An unfortunate choice for her.

  12. Three views of Park Avenue in the East 50s « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] structure is the New York Central building (now the Helmsley Building), right in front of the Pan Am Building, which opened in […]

  13. Paul C. Says:

    There was just one helicopter involved in the accident. Its right front landing gear collapsed while the rotors were turning, causing the aircraft to roll and one rotor blade to hit the surface and break off. Link to the NTSB report: The pedestrian was identified in AP newspaper articles as Anne Barnecott, who still lived with her parents in the Bronx. The accident happened at 5:35 in the afternoon, so likely the lunchtime greeting card story is inaccurate. Maybe it was an after work thing.

  14. Thomas John Barry Jr Says:

    I’ll Never Forget Seeing A White Sheet With A Woman’s Leg & Dress Shoes Sticking Out On The Sidewalk. So Very Sad. I Was 19 Years Old & Working At Thomas Cook In The United Nations Building. I Just Turned 56 & It Still Haunts Me To This Day. After Researching I Now Know Who The Woman Was & Just Want To Say How Sorry I Am To Her Family.

  15. Meseret Hailu Says:

    Never forget, OK? Pan firend.

  16. Meseret Hailu Says:

    I am still remembering this event, and would like to thanks the blogger. Will check back.

  17. Mark Welsh Says:

    One of the four killed instantly on the roof was Michael Findlay, who, with wife Roberta, filmed many NY porn films of the 1960s and 70s. He was decapitated. In the NY Times, a policeman at the scene said the head was still attached but just barely.

  18. Meseret Hailu Says:

    Thanking you for the additional info details. SO sad to hear that the poor man was decapitated like that. Oh no. I will revisit the site again.

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