Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure

I offer, for your perusal, the first draft of a 9-day helicopter charter I plan to offer passengers.

Yesterday, I spent the day in Sedona, AZ. I had a charter there that morning, and while my passengers were doing a Jeep tour, shopping, and having lunch, I spent the time planning a trip I’d been thinking about for a long time.

I’m interested in getting feedback. Take a few moments and read up. Use the Comments link to let me know what you think. Don’t balk at the price; it’s actually an incredible deal for about 9 hours of helicopter flight time over one of the most scenic areas of the U.S., plus lodging, other tours, and some meals.

Keep in mind that this posting is not an actual offer. Once I fine-tune the details, I’ll be offering the tour on the Flying M Air Web site. I’ll add photos and a table that lays out exactly what’s included each day. If you’re interested in actually taking this tour, contact me through that site and let me know. It would be great to do the first tour with someone who learned about it here.

Day 1
Your southwest circle adventure begins at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, where you’ll meet your helicopter pilot and climb aboard a 2005 Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter. This helicopter includes many luxury features, including leather seats, bubble observation windows, noise canceling headsets, voice activated intercom system, iPod-compatible stereo audio system, and state of the art GPS navigation system.

You’ll make the 60-minute flight to Sedona, AZ via the Verde River and beautiful Oak Creek for your first stop at “America’s most scenic airport.” You’ll take a 10-minute shuttle ride to Uptown Sedona for a 2-hour Jeep tour among Sedona’s famous red rocks, shopping, and lunch or dinner on your own. Then its back up to Airport Mesa where you’ll check into your red rock view room at Sedona Sky Ranch. Sit on your room’s deck and watch the sun set over the town.

Day 2
In the morning, return to the helicopter for the 45-minute flight to Grand Canyon Airport. You’ll start your visit to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim with a 25-minute helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon with one of the park’s licensed tour operators. At the end of the tour, board a shuttle bus for the 15-minute ride into Grand Canyon National Park. Enjoy a walk along the Rim, browse through the gift shops and museum displays, have lunch, take a bus along West Rim Drive for a variety of canyon views. You can even take a short hike into the canyon itself. In the afternoon, you’ll check into your room at one of the park’s South Rim accommodations, walking distance to the Rim and its incredible views.

Day 3
After breakfast at historic El Tovar hotel, courtesy of your pilot, return to the airport where the helicopter waits. From Grand Canyon Airport, it’s a 45-minute flight to Page on Lake Powell. Possible activities in Page include a Navajo-led tour of Antelope Canyon, (an incredible slot canyon carved through the sandstone), a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam, and a boat tour on Lake Powell. Ground transportation is available via the free shuttle provided by the park service concessionaire. You’ll spend the night at the Wahweap Lodge, where you can stroll along the water’s edge at sunset.

Day 4
In the morning, return to the airport and your helicopter for the next leg of your trip, a 45-minute flight along the southern edge of Lake Powell to Monument Valley. You’ll land at the airstrip at Goulding’s Lodge, a historic trading post with restaurant and motel. From there, you’ll take a 3-1/2 hour tour of Monument Valley, driving among the famous sandstone buttes with Navajo guides. Then it’s back to your room at Gouldings, with its private balcony overlooking the valley.

Day 5
The next day, you’re off to Bryce Canyon. The 1-hour flight will cross Lake Powell and miles of high desert landscape, passing by the east side of Bryce for a glimpse of the famous hoodoo formations before landing at the Bryce Canyon Airport. You’ll go into the park where you can walk along the rim, taking in the sights as you go, or descend on well-maintained trails among the rock formations. Hotel accommodations are in the park, at the Bryce Canyon Hotel.

Day 6
Start the day with an hour-long flight to a remote ranch on the north rim of the Grand Canyon: Bar 10. This unique destination is a waypoint for Colorado River runners starting or ending their adventures. If we arrive early enough, you’ll see helicopters taking passengers in and out of the canyon. When things calm down, enjoy horseback riding, skeet shooting, and a cowboy show. All meals are included for this part of the trip — the ranch is so remote, there’s no where else to eat! Even the sleeping accommodations are something special: you’ll share a covered wagon for the night after seeing more stars than you thought existed.

Day 7
The next morning, it’s off to bright lights in the big city. After an hour-long flight over high desert and Lake Mead, we’ll touch down at North Las Vegas Airport and take a taxi to a hotel along the Famous Las Vegas Strip. You’ll be on your own to explore casinos and shopping opportunities. But make sure you’re available that evening for a Neon Lights tour along the strip with Papillon Helicopters.

Day 8
The adventure continues when we leave Las Vegas for Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. You may catch a glimpse of the Hoover Dam as we cross Lake Mead and head east on the 45-minute flight. After a coach tour out to Guano Point for sweeping views of the canyon and a buffet lunch, you’ll board a helicopter for a trip down into the canyon and a boat ride on the smooth waters of the Colorado River. Afterwards, relax in the helicopter for the 90-minute flight to Wickenburg, a western town perfect for unwinding on the last night of your adventure. Unwind at a downtown motel, near shops, restaurants, and the historic area.

Day 9
Spend the last day of your trip in Wickenburg, strolling through the historic area, browsing shops, visiting through the museum, or just taking it easy. When you’re ready to return to Phoenix for the return trip home, your pilot will take you to the airport.

Package Price:
$8,995 double occupancy for two people; add $1,995 for separate rooms. Prices includes taxes and other fees.

Reservations are required at least 30 days in advance. A 50% deposit is required at the time of reservation. Cancellations within 30 days of departure date are subject to a $200 cancellation fee. Deposits are forfeited for cancellations within 14 days of departure date. (Trip insurance is recommended if you think your travel plans may change.) Flying M Air reserves the right to change hotel accommodations and some services from what may be listed here in the event of unavailability. In all instances, substituted accommodations and services will meet or exceed those offered here.

Package price includes air transportation, tours, and lodging (double occupancy) as described, some ground transportation, and some meals for up to two people. Passengers are responsible for all incidental costs not specifically included in the description, including most meals, some ground transportation, and the cost of personal items purchased on the trip.

Total passenger and luggage weight is limited to 500 lbs. Luggage size is limited by stowage space constraints; details will be provided at booking. Walking distances up to 1/4 mile is required at several stops. Some accommodations have limited facilities due primarily to their locations in remote areas. This trip is not recommended for people with health problems or special dietary needs, or people who have difficulty getting around. Trip starts and ends at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (or another Phoenix area airport of the passenger’s choosing).

Important Note:
This trip is not being offered as a tour. Instead, it is a series of charter helicopter flights, for transportation purposes only, packaged with lodging, some meals, and tours offered by licensed tour operators at destination locations. Although the helicopter flights pass over and through some of the most incredible scenery the southwest has to offer, Flying M Air is not a tour operator in these areas and is not conducting the flights as tours.

What do you think?