Week 6 - Helicopter Tour Company

Heyo! Well, here we are...Week 6 already!  At the moment, I am in the town of Squamish, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada.  I'm spending a week with a Helicopter Tour Company called Britannia Beach Heli Tours !

I'd like to first start out by saying how BEAUTIFUL the Rocky Mountains are!  I will never tire of looking up at them, and love how they make me feel so safe and inspired.

Squamish is about 60km north of Vancouver, and on Sunday I caught a ride with my friends Kim and Robbie.  They were very kind to offer their car as well as their company for the trip up!  Before checking into my hostel, we stopped at The Chief - a huge mountain that sits at the entrance to the town.  It's a popular hike, and we eagerly started climbing the second peak.

It was a great 3 hours clambering over tree roots and granite rock faces.  We even got in a little ladder/chain action up the side of a few steep pathways!!  The view from the top was definitely worth the sweat we drained...and a big thanks to Kimmy and Rob for keeping me entertained with all their falsetto singing ;)

I wish I had my photos downloaded, but I'll have to show you the views in a later post.

However, you CAN check out a Britannia Beach Heli Tours video of aerial views of the Black Tusk - a mountaintop found on the famous Sea to Sky Corridor, along the west coast, Film Credit: © Taylor Loughran

So - on to Heli Tours!  Squamish is known (unofficially) as Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital - and it's easy to see why!  With hiking, rock-climbing, kite-surfing, sailing, mountain biking, all just outside your door - it's an outdoor lover's dream come true.  Britannia Beach is a 5 minute drive south of Squamish, and is where Britannia Beach Heli Tours has their office and heli-pad set up.  They're a small company that specializes in affordable trips along the Sea to Sky highway - the corridor from Vancouver to Whistler, B.C.  You get mountains, oceans, glaciers, and lakes on-top-of-mountains!  The company started up in 2009, and is quickly growing in popularity in the local adventure tourism industry.

There's a lot to know about flying!  The first, and one of the most important things to consider when flying, is to make sure your chopper is properly maintained.  Lucky me, I get to see the insides of a helicopter!  Haha!  The company is doing some regular maintenance on their machine,  a Robinson R44.

An issue at the moment, however, is the amount of smoke in the air due to forest fires burning in the interior of the province.  Visibility is tricky when there's smoke - so again, safety is key.  It's pretty crazy, actually - my hair even smells like smoke it's so heavy!

To become a helicopter pilot takes hundreds of hours of in-flight training.  Emergency maneuvers are practiced and wind patterns are studied.  Physics is a big part of flying - something I definitely need to learn more about!  The company pilot Stuart Baxter, has been great at answering my questions, and has been kind enough to even let me stay at his house while I'm here.  He actually got into this job because of a heli-ski trip he took a few years ago.  He said that he found himself more curious about the helicopter, than about the fresh powder he had paid so much to ski!  I guess that's all it takes though - a genuine curiosity and who knows where you'll get!

Flying has always been something I've loved - whether in airplanes on vacation, or the one helicopter shoot I did a few years back.  I don't fully understand how it all works yet, but I have always marveled at it.  When I was young, I always had dreams that I was flying; I was convinced that if I jumped a certain way, or from a certain spot on the ground, I would magically take-off and travel wherever I wanted!

This is why I wanted to see what it was like to work in the aviation industry, what kind of trials and tribulations (such as smoke in the air!) they have to deal with, and what it takes to get off the ground.

But, I'm off to check in with the engineer and the pilot - fingers crossed this smoke clears and we can take off!

- Amanda