With over 138 people moving to our fair city every day, a guy has to wonder, what’s the best way to see our city and the surrounding area? Surely being jammed between a diesel 4×4 truck and a Prius isn’t the most desirable option. Have no fear, loyal reader, Austin has helicopter tours.
How It Began
In June 2012, Randy and Stacy Riggs expanded their San Antonio-based Alamo Helicopter Tours to Austin and opened Austin Helicopter Tours. Randy and Stacy are old hands in the helicopter business – Randy has 42 years of helicopter flying experience. Their current team consists of seven pilots who are FAA certified in a variety of helicopter designs.
I had the privilege to speak to Justin Little, one of the pilots for Austin Helicopter Tours. A little over five years ago, Justin wanted to learn how to fly a helicopter (it’s taking everything in my power to not call them choppers). Three months into the self-paced course, he earned his private pilot’s license. A year and a half later, he walked away an instrument-rated commercial pilot, and a certified flight instructor.
Helping People Experience Flight
Justin gave me a nice nickel tour of the Austin Helicopter Tours facilities. There are several helicopters for different purposes. Their largest is a Bell Long Ranger. This helicopter, built by the company who produced the famous UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, is capable of seating seven people and is popular for charter jobs.
The tours themselves take place seven days a week, weather permitting. When asked about gloomy skies, Justin had this to say, “High winds can be a problem for us, along with weather that causes limited visibility like mist, low clouds or fog.” But considering the overall sunny disposition of the Capital City, I doubt this is a regular problem.
The length and destination of the tours vary. Austin Helicopter Tours offers custom tours along with standard tours that take you over downtown, Lake Travis at sunset, and even to The Salt Lick! Justin informed me there is a two-person minimum. On the flip side, the largest group they have worked with was 60 people.
I know that owning and operating any type of aircraft isn’t cheap. So when Justin informed me that tours start at $84 per person, I was impressed. This is something my fiancé and I will want to check out in the near future.
Tours aren’t the only thing going on at Austin Helicopter Tours. They also do charter flights. Put simply, it’s a limousine service in the air. This is a cool concept. I mean, how boss would it be to show up to Circuit of the Americas by stepping out of a chartered helicopter? How boss would it be showing up anywhere in a helicopter?
Hey, remember when I told you that Justin Little is a certified instructor? If you want to expand your helicopter skills beyond stealing them on Grand Theft Auto V, the crew at Austin Helicopter Tours can teach you. That’s right – you can learn to fly a real helicopter. But don’t worry, the student helicopter is much slower than Airwolf.
If you are interested in any of the services Austin Helicopter Tours has to offer, the best thing to do is contact them through AustinHelicopterTours.com. Stacy Riggs will be happy to set you up with a tour, charter service, or flight class.
What would you most want to see from a helicopter in the Austin area?