Today I was lucky enough to take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. I can’t say it’s been a lifelong dream – but it should have been. The experience was about as mind-boggling as it can get in an aircraft.
I’m not normally much of a fan of helicopters – too noisy and too many bits to go wrong – but this was one time my prejudices were completely blown away(!).
My beloved and I took to the air with four other passengers, very ably flown by Brett our pilot, for the 45 minute trip in a Eurocopter 130, belonging to Papillon Helicopters. This is a 6-seater + pilot helicopter with state of the art controls and avionics and, as it turned out, a great music and commentary soundtrack played through our Bose headsets. Pilot Brett also answered questions on the way and pointed out additional items of interest.
We took off gently from the south rim airport and the one potentially scary bit, if you don’t have a head for heights, is the initially low-level approach over the forest towards the canyon’s edge. At about 60 knots we passed directly over the rim into empty space and about 5,500 feet of clear air down to the canyon floor below. Quite a few loudish noises from some of the passengers! All added to by the crucial bit of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ playing in the headsets.
The trip took us up the canyon and eventually across to the 1,000 feet higher north rim, which is much more difficult and lengthy to access by road. We turned up and along a few deep crevices and then Brett turned gently homeward and we re-crossed the canyon towards the south to return to the airport.
All in all, this was an amazing experience, particularly as we were lucky enough to sit in the front two seats next to the pilot. Papillon Helicopters are the consummate professionals in both passenger check-in and the flight itself. Not cheap but an experience of a lifetime. Foxbatpilot rating 11/10
PS – when I get back, I’ll edit and post a short video of the experience. Watch this space!