Business travelers or even commuters may soon be able to fly from Annapolis to downtown New York City in 75 minutes.
Maryland's first public-use heliport will open in two months at the Power Technology Center, a new office building on Defense Highway near Annapolis.
Private helicopters will be able to land at the center simply by radioing ahead a few minutes before they land, said Ralph F. Petragnani, general manager of the heliport.
But Petragnani hopes to offermore than a place for people to land and take off. He said he has been talking with three companies that are "very interested" in runninga commuter service out of the heliport.
He won't name the businesses, but said they are East Coast helicopter companies. Petragnani said he hopes to start the service by fall.
"We wanted to offer something that would make this building stand out," he said. "The heliport seemed a natural."
The 78,000-square-foot office building, whichwill open next month, cost $6 million to build. So far, high-tech companies have leased about 20 percent of the office space. The heliport will cost an additional $500,000.
The building, which is visiblefrom Route 50, looks like the right place for a heliport. With reflective glass panels, a round core and two wings, the building looks like a spaceship.
"We've gotten a lot of comments on it," Petragnanisaid. "People either love it or they hate it."
Petragnani said a helicopter flight from Annapolis to New York would compare favorably with a plane flight from Baltimore-Washington International to La Guardia International Airport, which takes slightly more than an hour.
"If you took a cab from La Guardia downtown, it would take at least 30minutes," he said.
Petragnani mailed an informal marketing surveyto Anne Arundel Trade Council businesses last week. So far, six area companies have expressed interest in the helicopter service, including a courier that would like to use the service to deliver packages.
Petragnani hopes to get more responses tonight, when the Power Technology Center holds a Trade Council business mixer.
The survey mentioned other possible destinations for a helicopter service. A flight to Philadelphia would take 40 minutes, Washington National airport would take 15 minutes and Dulles International Airport could be reached in 24 minutes.
For those seeking to mix business and pleasure, a flight to Ocean City would take 30 minutes and Atlantic City, N.J.,would be 35 minutes away.
The builders have begun clearing the area where the heliport will be built. The landing area will be finished in two months. The rest of the heliport -- a refueling area, hangar, walkway and passenger terminal -- will be finished within a year, Petragnani said.
He said people will be able to rent a car in the terminal or book a hotel room, among other services. The heliport willbe lighted for night use.
The building and heliport are being built by Power Technology Center Limited Partnership, which includes William R. Anderson Jr. of Annapolis and Ronald Cohen Investments of Bethesda.
Petragnani, 44, has been in the aviation business 25 years. As a leader of a marketing team for Aerospatiale Helicopters in Dallas, Texas, he sold the Maryland State Police their Medivac helicopters. He visited Annapolis while working on the deal.
"I fell in love with Annapolis," he said. "I had to find a way to move to the area and work here."
He moved here with his wife and daughter. After getting a job with a helicopter charter service, Petragnani became involved with the heliport project. He soon took over.
"I love the area," he said. "I can't see moving anywhere else."