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Liberty Helicopters

Liberty Helicopters resumes tours over the Hudson River

Aug 11, 2009

Foreign tourists lined up early to be the first aloft Tuesday as Liberty Helicopters resumed flights over the Hudson, where divers were still pulling up wreckage.

"I'm not afraid to get on the helicopter. The only way to see New York City is from above," said Jan Veldman, 45, of Holland, visiting the city for the first time with 11-year-old son, Max.

"Besides, I don't think there is a safer day to fly over the Hudson," he added.

They arrived at Liberty Helicopter's 30th Street helipad an hour early to be first in line to buy tickets.

Inside the ticket office, where the walls are lined with pictures of pilots, the mood was somber.

"We are just focused on having a safe flight," a manager told the Daily News.

Ten blocks away in the line to visit the Empire State Building, other tourists said they wouldn't think of flying so soon after Saturday's crash.

"It's just too soon right now," said Italian tourist Leo Kucio, 34.

"It's morbid. The helicopter will be going right over the search boats. That's not good. They should wait at least until the bodies are all out of the water."

But nothing could dampen the excitement of young Max, who climbed onto a chair to peer out a window as his father purchased the 20 minute Big Apple tour package for $180.

"That's our helicopter," Max crowed excitedly, pointing at the chopper waiting on the pad.

The Veldmans were joined on the day's first flight by Briton Richard Bertram, 52, his wife, Janice, 54, and their daughter, Cori, 11.

"I feel very safe," Bertram said. "Accidents happen all the time. We fly all over the world. Are we now going to stop crossing the street because we might get hit by a car?"

At 9:11 a.m., the helicopter pilot shook hands with his five passengers, gave a thumbs up to a worker on the ground, and lifted up over the Hudson.

The regular route took the tourists over rescue crews still trying to recover the plane and the last two victims of Saturday's collision between a small plane and a Liberty chopper.

The helicopter landed at 9:35 a.m. The pilot was smiling as two employees greeted him on the runway.

By then, another 18 people had joined the line for a tour.

"It's nice to see all the people coming. It's a return to normalcy," a Liberty employee said.

The families disembarked chattering excitedly.

"It was fantastic. Absolutely awesome! It was magic," said Janice Bertram, who said it was the best part of the family's trip.

"I loved it. Not even a little scary. What a view! I took lots of pictures," said Cori.

Veldman said the pilot appeared to hesitate while flying over the recovery effort.

"The pilot pulled back over the spot over the wreckage was. It was a little strange," he said.

Liberty Helicopters resumes tours over the Hudson River
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