Saturday, February 11, 2012

Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Expedition

Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters ( has an outstanding safety record, and this is made possible by constant vigilance from the time your tour is booked, until you have safely completed it. Since I participate in a healthy living support group that weighs its members once a week (, I was completely intrigued by the discreet method used at the Papillon Ticket Counter to get an accurate weight on future passengers. As soon as the ticket agent told me to stand on the black footprints on the floor, I let go of my heavy purse and shoved it to one side (what woman wants to have the weight of her purse included in the record of her body weight???!!!) Of course, the ticket agent told me if I intended to take that purse up in the helicopter with me, I needed to be holding it when they recorded a weight for me. She also let me know there were lockers available if I wanted to leave the purse in the terminal.

After you are weighed and checked in at the ticket counter, you proceed to a room for the mandatory safety video. The video is available in a variety of languages, so that non-English speaking passengers will know the procedures, as well as those who understand English.

After the video, you can visit the expansive gift shop, or purchase a snack from their fully stocked kitchen area.

When your flight number is called, you proceed out onto the tarmac, and meet your pilot. This is Jeff H., who was the aviator for our group. His first demonstration was to open up an air sickness bag, to give to each participant, in the event a passenger begins to get a queasy stomach. I had already considered that possibility, as I have a history of motion sickness, so earlier that morning, I took an over-the-counter meclazine tablet that reduces the chances of such an occurrence. I also had a scopolamine patch available, but since they sometimes give me double vision (the thought of seeing two of everything in the Grand Canyon is not the type of "two for one" bargain I wanted as a souvenir of this trip!), I decided not to use it. As it turns out, our ride was incredibly smooth, and none of the passengers had to use the motion sickness bag they had been given!

The next thing Jeff demonstrated was the floatation devise, to be used in the event of an emergency landing on the water (we were flying over Lake Mead and the Colorado River, as well as the Grand Canyon). We each strapped one of the life-saver "fanny packs" around our waist.

Our helicopter held eight people, including the pilot. When it came time to get into the helicopter, there was no bickering over where to sit, as the seats had been preassigned, based on our body weights, and how we each needed to be positioned in the helicopter, to make it as balanced as possible. I was extremely happy with where I ended up---in a front seat, next to the pilot. However, there is so much clear viewing area in this helicopter designed specifically for aerial sightseeing, that there are no "bad" seats!

I was thankful for the beautiful clear blue sky, which made Lade Mead this beautiful azure color. It is hard to believe that this serene vista is just a phone call away (1-888-635-7272) from the glitter and glamor of the Las Vegas strip. One of the services that Papillon offers is to arrange to pick you up at your Las Vegas hotel, and return you to your hotel, at the conclusion of your flight. Our Nevada host said this is sometimes called the "Neon to Nature" tour!

The day before, our group had toured Hoover Dam (shown in this photo), and we learned that the bridge you can see in front of the dam, was just opened within the last year or so, to relieve the heavy truck traffic that had been crossing the highway on top of the dam on a daily basis, for decades.

I pointed my camera behind me, and snapped this photo of Ming (from Singapore) and Joe (from California). It is good to note that passengers can request a recorded narration in their native tongue, if they so desire. Even though Ming speaks Chinese, she is also fluent in English, so all of us listened to our pilot, Jeff, do a "live" (versus recorded) narration in English. Each passenger had a headset, equipped with a microphone, so that we could not only hear Jeff talking to us, we could also ask him questions through our individual microphones.

After a few minutes over Lake Mead and Boulder City, we started seeing those colorful striations of rock that the Grand Canyon is famous for (our trip was on the north rim of the Grand Canyon). Since we had an early morning flight, the sun was shining in a full frontal mode, against some of the bluffs, making them appear to glow, above the blue ribbon of the Colorado River far below.

The bright sun also means there are deep shadows, and that is what is producing the darker streaks on the left side of this photo. You can also see the shadow of our helicopter in the lower left corner.

Thanks to Jose of El Salvador ( who was sitting on the second row of seats) for taking this photo of me!

I was amazed that this simple-looking "joy stick" (in the hands of the very capable pilot Jeff) was able to keep this dragonfly-like contraption gliding through the sky!

As we returned to our starting point, we were able to get a good, overall view of the new Papillon Aerocenter, that just opened in 2009, at the Boulder City Municipal Airport. It is a beautifully-designed facility, with 30,000 square feet of service area. Papillon was founded in 1965, and is currently the world's largest aerial sightseeing company.

Before our flight took off, Papillon had their professional photographer take a group photograph of the passengers, which was available for purchase and pickup when the passengers returned to the terminal after the flight. Pilot Jeff was also kind to let us snap a few photos after we landed, with our own personal cameras, as well.

Taking a scenic helicopter ride has been on my "bucket list" of things to do for almost a decade, so I had really been looking forward to it for a long time. Therefore, when I heard that a sightseeing helicopter had crashed over the Grand Canyon last year (it was NOT a helicopter operated by Papillon), I started to rehearse in my mind what I would do if I knew the helicopter was about to crash. I decided I would be yelling out for everyone to be calling on the name of the LORD for their salvation. Then, I internally scolded myself for thinking I would only say this if we were about to crash. I need to be proclaiming that regularly, not just in a time of disaster. That is why I am giving you the link if you would like to know more about the promises given in that Bible verse. If you would like to know more about aerial sightseeing in the Grand Canyon, or other area attractions, visit for that information. God has shown us the glory of his creation in our natural world, so GET OUT THERE AND SEE IT!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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