Travelling in a helicopter isn’t something I ever expected to do. It’s a mode of transport usually reserved for millionaire celebrities, Special Forces operatives or presidents, and I’m none of these things (yet). So when the lovely people at Experience Days offered me the chance to go on a helicopter tour of Las Vegas with Maverick Helicopters, I understandably leaped at the chance.
There was just one problem – I’m scared of heights. While one side of me was thrilled to see the City of Sin in such an exciting and glamorous way, the other side was imagining plunging thousands of feet to a fiery death on the Las Vegas Strip. Maverick has the top safety record of any tourism-based aviation company in the world, but I have an overactive imagination – so it was with both anticipation and trepidation that I arrived at Maverick HQ.
We were given a glass of Champagne while we waited, which was a great idea: if you’re just excited about flying in a helicopter you can have a cheerful toast; if you’re scared, like me, you can gulp it down in an attempt to steady your nerves. I kept my mind away from premonitions of my own death by doing Arnie “Get to the chopper!” impressions (which actually really helped!) and then it was time to fly!
We were introduced to our pilot, posed for a quick photo op outside the helicopter and then climbed aboard. Once we had our headphones on my nerves began to give way to pure excitement: I was sitting in the front of the helicopter, next to the pilot, and with nothing in front of me but a pane of glass (eep!), I realised I had the best view in the house.Then the engine started, the chopper began to vibrate, and it was up, up and away! As the helicopter rose I got the weirdest swooping feeling in my stomach – nothing like the sensation you get from being in an air plane, but more the feeling you get when an elevator begins to ascend.
For the first minute, the helicopter only rose about a foot off the ground, flying gently across the landing strip to the take off point. Being so close to the ground was honestly a little unsettling at first (I kept picturing the helicopter skids snagging on the ground…!) but seeing how the pilot was able to hover and move around so gracefully – while still in complete control – was amazing, and soon the real ascent began.
Climbing slowly but steadily into the Las Vegas evening air was exhilarating, and the movement of the helicopter, the way it twisted and turned in the air, was a completely alien feeling. After a few minutes I adjusted to the new sensations of chopper flight, my nerves were appeased and I could, finally, sit back and enjoy the flight. And what a flight it was! We flew over all the mega resorts of the Las Vegas Strip, from the New York, New York skyline to the glittering Bellagio fountains and the golden glow of the Luxor pyramid, and then passed over Downtown Las Vegas’ famous Fremont Street, home to the first casinos in the city. As we flew we listened to commentary via our headphones, which was really interesting: did you know that there are more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than in all of Europe combined?
It was genuinely awe-inspiring to see just how far the lights of the city spread out – the dazzling glow was visible for miles, until eventually the black horizon of the desolate Nevada desert took over. After about 15 minutes of electrifying flight, the tour began to come to an end. The helicopter looped back, taking me closer to a Trump Tower than I ever thought (or hoped) I would be. What a night for new experiences!
As the helicopter landed I felt giddy with excitement, and not just because I was so grateful that I was alive and the flight had gone without a hitch. We posed for a few more photos in front of the helicopter (me grinning like an idiot) and all too quickly, the experience was over.
Flying in a helicopter is, without doubt, the best way to travel. No other aircraft has the dexterity and grace of a chopper, and the aerial views were truly sensational. Gliding smoothly over the lights of Sin City is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you Maverick and Experience Days for such a wonderful night!