Nearly 600,000 people annually take a Papillon Helicopters’ Grand Canyon tour. How did the company get so popular? Simple: By offering fantastic trips at an affordable price.
Papillon operates one of the newest fleet of helicopters flying today. It’s a mix of EcoStar and Bell aircraft that have been customized for sightseeing. Such features include 180-degree, wraparound windshields, stadium-style seating, and Fenestron quiet-ride rotor technology.
Each helicopter also sports a two-way digital communications system, which lets you talk with the pilot and other passengers in your party. Optional pre-recorded travel narratives in 11 languages also enhance your tour. Inquire if your flight is being recorded by on-board video cameras. These movies can be purchased on DVD when you land.
Papillon is based in Las Vegas, NV, and in Grand Canyon, AZ. Las Vegas tours depart from either McCarran International or from Boulder City’s municipal airport. Trips include free hotel shuttle service, with pick up happening 1.5 hours before you lift off. Flights originating in Arizona depart from Grand Canyon Airport, which is located in Tusayan, a small town situated just south of the National Park’s entrance.
To help you plan your Grand Canyon adventure, I’ve separated the canyon into rims and have highlighted what you can see and do:
The West Rim is just 120 miles away from Las Vegas. By helicopter, you can be there in 45 minutes.
If you want to fly to the bottom, this rim is the only place where you can do it. The descent – a 4,000-foot drop past spires, buttes, and cliffs – is something that must be experienced. Includes a Champagne toast, light lunch, and plenty of exploration time. This package’s most popular upgrade is river rafting, which involves taking a pontoon boat down the Colorado River.
Then there’s the Grand Canyon Skywalk. In the last three or so years, this attraction has become the buzz of Vegas. The “glass bridge” lets you walk 70 feet past the edge and suspends you 4,000 feet above the river. This super glass cost $ 250,000 a pop and enables you to experience what is being billed as “gravity-defying” views.
This is the most famous area of the canyon and probably the most photographed. By car, it’s a four-hour trip from Phoenix and a two-hour trip from Sedona. From Las Vegas, you’ll have to sit through a 5.5-hour bus tour or a 45-minute airplane flight (recommended).
Visitors starting from Arizona are advised to drive to Grand Canyon Airport (GCA) and check in for their flight. For Las Vegas-based travelers, you will need to either purchase a bus/helicopter package or an airplane/helicopter package.
Papillon’s heli tours start leave GCA and bolt at 200 mph over the Kaibab Plateau before entering the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest section of the canyon. The flight turns back at the North Rim. All in all, I’m estimating that a helicopter ride shows you in 30 minutes what would take days on foot.
Papillon’s standard prices are extremely competitive. But if you want the rock-bottom deal, I highly recommend you visit their website. The online discounts are enormous and can save you up to 35%. I personally have used Papillon’s website to book all my flights and have never had any issues.
If flying with a reputable Grand Canyon helicopter tour is important, go with Papillon. The company has been open for business for more than 50 years and has been flown by millions of customers. They’ve got these trips down to a science and are able to offer them at prices that the competition can’t touch. The Grand Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t cut corners on this one. Stick with the tour operator who puts your interests first and has a track record of delivering quality. Fly with Papillon.
Travel expert Keith Kravitz posts his helicopter tour operator ratings at http://www.GrandCanyonHelicopterTourReviews.com