Papillon Helicopters Offers Fun, Affordable Grand Canyon Tours

Do you want to see the Grand Canyon? Consider a Papillon Helicopters’ tour. Started in 1965, Papillon is one of the most reputable sightseeing companies in the world. This is not lip service. They earn it each year by flying more than 600,000 satisfied customers a year to the National Park

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 has offices in Las Vegas, and at Grand Canyon Airport in Arizona. 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:

West Rim

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. The most requested upgrade to this package is river rafting, wherein you board a pontoon boat upstream and ride the mighty 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.

South Rim

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. For the absolute best deal, I strongly suggest you go to their website. The online discounts are enormous and can save you up to 35%. I purchase all my Papillon trips online and vouch that their site is safe and secure.

If flying with a reputable Grand Canyon helicopter tour is important, go with Papillon. The company has been in business for more than 50 years and has served 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 Papillon.

Fly the Grand Canyon? Read travel writer Keith Kravitz’ tour operator reviews first at

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My Review of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters

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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