by Tom Simpson
Papillon Helicopters is renowned for it’s Grand Canyon National Park trips. I was in charge of the family’s canyon trip this holiday season. Naturally, I booked with Papillon. Here is a quick write-up on my trip:
There was six among us. We stayed at El Tovar in Grand Canyon Village, which is located in the boundaries of the National Park. I highly recommend this hotel. It can be expensive, but it’s more than worth it as you are seconds from the rim’s edge.
I believe you can make plans with Papillon Helicopters to be picked up. Otherwise, you are able to set up a pick up at the transportation desk inside the Bright Angel Lodge. I leased a Chevy Tahoe for our trip. I loaded the gang inside and made the 10-minute drive to Grand Canyon Airport.
Grand Canyon Airport is situated just outside Tusayan. It’s hard to miss it. There’s a lot of activity. Helicopters and planes arrive and depart from it often. The Papillon terminal is the largest. I parked the SUV and got us checked in (incidentally, the coffee there is delicious!).
The atmosphere is very friendly. I met lots of travelers from Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The main receiving area is comfortable. We were up late yesterday evening so I slipped in a power nap. I woke up to my sister tugging on my jacket and telling me it was time to fly.
Choppers hold up to six people (if you weigh in excess of 275 pounds you could be asked to get what they call a “comfort seat.”). As this was family, I upgraded all of us to the EcoStar 130, which has 25% more cabin room, theater-style seating, and a 180-degree wraparound windshield for better views.
Furthermore, I reserved us on the extended flight. Papillon Helicopter’s typical South Rim chopper trip is 30 minutes. That’s plenty for most people. I estimate that what you see in half an hour would take a few days on the ground. But I wanted more (it’s not every day you fly the canyon), so I went with trip that gave us between 45-50 minutes of airtime.
Take off was extraordinary. Our helicopter, nose forward, blasted from the runway making a low-altitude flight over Kaibab National Forest, which hosts the biggest stand of Ponderosa Pine on the planet. In ten minutes, we said good-bye to the edge and found ourselves front and center in the Dragoon Corridor, the broadest ,deepest section of the Grand Canyon.
It was an amazing sight. The Colorado River was below us. So was the Temple of Ra. The buttes and spires were surreal. There were no clouds on the horizon. Our pilot explained that our visibility was about 140 miles as opposed to 30 for people on the ground! The chopper powered towards the stately North Rim. Here we turned back, enjoying Hopi Point and Grand Canyon Village as we made our descent.
Papillon Helicopters records all flights using cameras on the exterior and interior of the helicopter. Make sure you purchase a copy of your trip on DVD. I did. The quality was great. I made duplicates for all of us. They loved it. Definitely a great memento of our chopper tour.
Papillon Helicopters Grand Canyon South Rim tour gets two thumbs up from us. It was a tour of the South Rim. I’m glad we did the extended flight. The additional airtime was worth every penny. Our pilot was fantastic and entertained us with facts and stories of the area. He made the destination come alive for us. This was definitely a trip highlight for my clan and me. We’ll undoubtedly be doing this air tour again.
Mr. Kravitz is a travel writer who reviews Grand Canyon tours. Go here for his latest review of Papillon Helicopters and his Top 3 air tour operators.
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