From the moment the helicopter lifted off the pad, my heart was filled with excitement. It’s the same feeling I get when an airplane achieves rotation speed and becomes airborne. You feel it in your stomach, it pushes down through you and almost immediately you can feel your rump lift slightly off the seat, and then you settle back down gently. You can tell you’re airborne just by how it feels, you don’t need your eyes to know it.
While visiting my oldest son in Phoenix, I decided to join some fellow pilot friends for a fly-in at the Sedona Airport just 2 hours up the road. The plan was to meet for breakfast at the airport’s Mesa Grill.
Just after heading out, we saw balloon’s rising all over as the sun continued to climb above the horizon. What beautiful additions to the sky for us to encounter! Who would have thought we’d run into such an amazing site today?
The terrain is so different in Arizona than from the east coast. It’s a hot, dry desert with these huge cactus all over, or so I thought. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful in a rugged sort of way.
What begins in Phoenix, changes ever so slightly as you make the drive to Sedona. The barren mountains with the sparsely placed cactus giants quickly begin to change, and small shrubs of green begin to appear as you ascend in elevation. They dot the landscape and give it more color, as well as giving the idea that life is more abundant the higher you get.
The temperature change was significant as well. I was stunned to find out it was about 15 degrees cooler in Sedona and that we’d need jackets for our adventure.
The closer you get to Sedona and the higher you climb in elevation, the more green emerges. The shrubs and bushes turn to tall evergreens and it becomes more densely populated with clusters of trees along the mountains of red. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever seen. I’m always amazed when I travel at the vast diversity of life and landscape across this marvelous earth we have to enjoy. Traveling to new places is one of the greatest pleasures in my life.
The Sedona Airport is on the far side of the city situated on top of a mountain. I had no idea how incredible it would be to fly into or out of this amazing place. http://sedonaairport.org/
Once I knew we were going to meet up with some friends here; I decided to check on options for sightseeing tours from the airport. There are several options, but the one that caught my eye was a doors-off, photographers tour in a helicopter with Sedona Air Tours. You can check them out here, http://www.sedonaairtours.com/.
I’ve never flown in a helicopter, and honestly, it wasn’t something I’d thought I’d ever want to do until I saw this tour. The thought of photographing Sedona from the air with no doors or windows to get in the way sounded so exciting that I knew the minute I found it, I had to do it. Next came convincing the family that it was an awesome idea. They’ve never flown in a single engine plane, how was I going to make this sound appealing and exciting to them?
Well, let’s just say my enthusiasm and excitement won them over, and we were signed up before anyone had a chance to change their minds.
After our marvelous breakfast at the Mesa Grill and visiting with new friends, it was time for our helicopter flight. I wish I knew of more places this great to fly near me for such an awesome array of food options.
The staff were wonderful at the Sedona Air Tours. We checked in and met our ground person that would be transporting us to the runway to get us settled in. He was so funny and had us laughing the whole time we made our way to the ramp. He told us the rules and helped us prepare for our flight.
Locked in and buckled up, we lifted up and headed off the mountain. It’s an exhilarating feeling when the helicopter leaves the runway and you get some down draft as the ground gives way beneath you. From my son in the back, I could hear him gasp and laugh a bit. I knew he was probably nervous, but I also knew he’d be safe.
It’s an incredible site to see from the air. How remarkable the colors are draping across the landscape that lay before us. ‘A Painted Desert’ indeed it is. The intensely blue skies above us left me speechless as we moved smoothly over the canyon and mountains. The air was so clear, no haze anywhere. The winds were strong this day, but as they told me, the helicopter can cut right through it, and it did.
It’s deeply rugged here; the rocks, the rawness, the dryness all make me thirsty thinking about hiking across this area. It’s beautiful and yet, frightening. I keep thinking, how do you carry enough water to make a long hike? I see many hikers below us and wonder if they prepared well.
The glass cockpit up front allows for a marvelous view all around me. The doors-off give me a fantastic, unobstructed view for taking photographs. I never once felt afraid. I loved how close we could get in the canyon and dive deep into it to get a view that I’d never get in a Cessna.
We were in the air for about 25 minutes. It’s probably the most amazing thing I’ve done in my life so far. I enjoyed the helicopter ride so much, that it made me want to look at training in one down the road.
I can’t seem to capture it all in words, and I’m not sure my pictures really do it justice either. Sedona is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I can’t imagine a better way to see it. We only had a few hours to spend there, and it was well worth the tour for a chance to take it all in on a beautiful day.
So much aviation in one day, my heart was full. Balloons in the morning, a fly-in for breakfast and a helicopter tour mid day. My evening ended with photographing F-16’s and F-35’s coming in to land at Luke AFB. I can’t think of a much better adventure at the moment, but give me some time and I’ll see what I can come up with next.
Here’s a short video I edited from our flight. I hope you enjoy watching it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oMdNyOcdNo