Helicopter Tour Company Eyes Chicago River's South Branch

By Casey Cora on December 17, 2013 4:40pm | Updated on December 17, 2013 4:48pm

 The plot of land at 2420 S. Halsted St. is getting eyed as a launch site for a helicopter charter company.
The plot of land at 2420 S. Halsted St. is getting eyed as a launch site for a helicopter charter company.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — A tour company that offers helicopter rides for tourists and executives is looking to build a big facility on the South Branch of the Chicago River, complete with a heliport to launch its aircraft.

Chicago Helicopter Express's plans for a property at 2420 S. Halsted St. also include the creation of a water taxi dock, a terminal with a rooftop observation deck, an aircraft fueling station and a 17,500 square-foot hangar.

The Wheeling-based company's proposal was on the agenda of the City Council Zoning Committee Tuesday, but was tabled until the Plan Commission acts on it first. The plan commission is scheduled to meet Thursday, but it's unclear if the measure will be discussed.

Reached by phone, a representative for the helicopter company declined comment.

The 4.6 acre property is managed by CenterPoint Properties, which took over the land after World Paper and Storage went out of business, sources said. The plot is situated just west of Halsted Street and south of the river, putting it in close proximity to the Stevenson and Dan Ryan Expressways, and the CTA Orange Line tracks.

The plans, obtained by DNAinfo Chicago, show the company would launch its charter fleet from a heliport on the bank of the river. Once launched, the aircraft would fly at 13,000 feet and largely follow flight paths toward Lake Michigan or along the nearby expressways.

Tourist flights, meanwhile, would follow one of several patterns that would whisk riders toward the lake, offering picturesque skyline views from the confines of its helicopter fleet.

According to its website, Chicago Helicopter Express offers a variety of airborne services, including private and industrial charters, direct flights to golf courses and short jaunts to Midwestern destinations like the Wisconsin Dells, Lake Geneva and the Indianapolis 500 race. A "holiday lights" tour runs through Jan. 6.

Earlier this fall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a plan that would construct a helicopter landing and launching area near 15th Street and Wood Avenue on the Near West Side that would be used primarily for hospitals in the Illinois Medical District.

 Plans show Chicago Helicopter Express hopes to construct a hangart and heliport in the 2400 block of South Halsted St.
Plans show Chicago Helicopter Express hopes to construct a hangart and heliport in the 2400 block of South Halsted St.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

That $13 million facility would also be open to private charters, giving bigwigs a chance to drop right into the city, something that hasn't been possible since Mayor Richard M. Daley's infamous overnight destruction of Meigs Field.

Alds. James Balcer (11th) and Danny Solis (25th) did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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