Instagram feeds are full of incredible views of Manhattan photographed by passengers landing at LaGuardia.
They got lucky—it only comes together if the winds are just right, and they’re sitting on the left side of the plane, and the plane flies a particular routing.
Part of the reason I wanted to learn how to fly was to enjoy these views of Gotham on my own. Flying the New York City skyline is not like say, learning to fly or learning to land a plane. It takes a lot more concentration.
The focus comes primarily from using the radio to communicate with each of Kennedy, Newark, and LaGuardia airports, and in very quick succession.
You’re making your radio calls—quickly and efficiently—between the big jets, like Speedbird (British Airways), or JetBlue. You get handed off to each control tower, like a baton. The professional air traffic controllers are accustomed to helicopters and small planes in this area of New York, and are incredibly nice, calm, and helpful.
Typically, you fly west along the shoreline of Rockaway Beach at 400 feet, technically under the airspace of JFK airport. Then, the JFK tower will allow you to climb up to 1,500 feet, and hand you over to Newark Tower for a short spell.
At the same time, in the background, the Newark controller gives a headsup to LaGuardia that our little Cessna is coming up the Hudson River. Soon, we're then passed over to LaGuardia.
It wasn’t a busy day in the air, so the controller had no issues with us doing a few loops down the East River. (I looked out to my left, to see my friends playing soccer at Bushwick Inlet Park).
My favorite part is taking up friends and family so that they can enjoy the view. In my case, I only get glimpses of Manhattan pass by, as I’m the one at the controls. Only after the flight do I get to enjoy the images like these. I think you’d agree they are clearly Instagram-worthy.
Mike Arnot is a private pilot, and the founder of Boarding Pass NYC. Andrew Mitchell is a NYC-based photographer.