Possibly coming soon to the Buffalo riverfront: helicopters full of camera-snapping tourists taking off and landing near Silo City.
A Buffalo native and veteran helicopter pilot is working with Carl and William Paladino's Ellicott Development to bring his aerial photo touring business to downtown Buffalo.
Mike Campbell, owner of FlyBuffaloNY, wants to operate his company from a heliport that would be built at 20 Buffalo River Place, just off Ohio Street not far from Silo City.
"Every major city has a heliport, and Buffalo is on the move and now is the time to make this happen," Campbell said.
His "ultimate goal" is to be able to offer tours and charters in and out of downtown, and provide a facility where emergency medical services, media outlets and law enforcement can land aircraft.
The 5.9-acre parcel of vacant land, as well as the Gelmac Silo, are owned jointly by Ellicott and Benderson Development Co.
Benderson filed an application with the city for a special-use permit from the Common Council, which will be reviewed by the Buffalo Planning Board on Oct. 10.
According to the filing, plans call for constructing a helicopter parking ramp with three helipads, an office trailer, a customer-access point and vehicle parking in the first phase of the project, followed by an 11,625-square-foot hangar and customer lounge later.
"The granting of this request allows for the opportunity to bring in a unique business to the First Ward and the first-of-its-kind attraction to downtown Buffalo," Ellicott wrote in its application.
Campbell said he launched FlyBuffaloNY to share his love for aviation and helicopters with the city, as well as to create an opportunity for future helicopter pilots to work here.
Not everyone is enthused about the idea of adding a heliport to the Silo City neighborhood.
Buffalo resident Kate Gorman, who visits the Silo City area for activities like kayaking, believes a heliport is a poor fit for that location.
"It's located in a city neighborhood," she said. "Helicopters are really noisy and disruptive, and they cause localized high winds."
Gorman predicted the noise would disrupt concerts and poetry readings held at Silo City, and detract from the natural setting that appeals to hikers, boaters and wildlife.
Gorman said the Common Council at the very least should require a draft environmental impact statement for the heliport, "because this could have a lot of impact on the whole neighborhood."
Campbell said helicopters "have become more eco-friendly and environmentally sound by nature. They're working on technology that make them quieter."
He said FlyBuffaloNY's routes would be structured so as not to interfere with housing in the area. And Campbell said he sees the heliport as an asset for the neighborhood. "I think it's just going to improve the development and start to make things happen quicker down there."
Campbell's FlyBuffaloNY already operates tours and a flight training school from both the Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport at 4343 Walden Ave. in Lancaster and from the Niagara Falls International Airport on Porter Road.
The company offers its Grand Niagara, Taste of Buffalo and Roaring Niagara Falls tours, as well as a combo package, for up to 55 minutes, with prices ranging from $210 to $510 per person. Campbell flies a Robinson R44 Raven II, which can carry up to four passengers, for a maximum range of 400 miles.
The pilot, who has been flying for more than 10 years, has previous experience with emergency medical services, news coverage, tours and charter flights. He operates a heli-tour business in New York City and Miami but has been spending the majority of his time working on the Buffalo project. He initially sought to fly out of the Outer Harbor before that plan fell short of approval.