As an aerial photographer, it makes sense for Jeff Codman to pilot a Robinson R44 Raven. The viper-red aircraft affords him unlimited freedom of movement, nearly 360-degree visibility, and the ability to hover and swoop like a hummingbird as he dips 100 feet above the earth to snap shots of sailboats, unusual toupees, and ocean-side mansions.
Now, with Bird's Eye View Helicopters’ tours, Mr. Codman grants guests the same breathtaking aerial views in the helicopter that he’s enjoyed for more than 20 years. The Fall Foliage tour transports guests over a patchwork quilt of red and orange foliage, and the Island Tour traces a route above Ocean Drive and historic lighthouses. Mr. Codman even lets amateur pilots take the reins during a 25-minute introductory flight.
Located just outside Boston, Blue Hill lets aspiring pilots navigate both the busy airspace above the city and the more difficult flying conditions around the White Mountains. A full-scale flight simulator preps beginners before they can receive one-on-one lessons from an instructor in a two-seat Schweizer 300C helicopter, which accommodates both commercial or private flying tracks. The copter also ferries passengers above the city at dusk or carries riders home to the nest where flying machines roost at night.
An FAA-approved helicopter-flight tour operator, North Andover Flight Academy employs five licensed instructors with combined flight and teaching experience that numbers in the thousands of hours. Fledgling aviators can begin their aeronautical journeys at Lawrence and Marlboro Airports, which serve as home bases for services that range from tours and photography flights to full pilot-certification courses and agricultural applications. The team commands a fleet of six Robinson helicopters, including one R44 and five R22s, and keeps Robinson factory-trained mechanics on staff to ensure their safe operation and to ice down their blades after particularly vigorous training flights.
Since 1985, the FAA-certified team of pilots and instructors at East Coast Aero Club has shepherded citizens from Hanscom Field airport to the skies above Boston for sightseeing, introductory flights, and pilot-certification programs. The crew oversees a 35-aircraft-strong fleet composed of planes by Piper, Cessna, Cirrus, and Diamond, as well as helicopters by Robinson. The company’s entry-level educational program, Learn to Fly, matches pupils up with one of more than 25 certified flight instructors, who teach students how to read each craft's instruments and back issues of SkyMall.
But passengers don't just learn about flight; they also learn about the area around them. Scenic flights afford aerial views of the city, soaring from Hanscom Field over such sights as the Lexington battlefields, the Charles River, and the USS Constitution. Passengers can bring along cameras to capture the spectacular views and document any crop circles they spot in the outfield at Fenway Park.