Ron Carroll's fascination with helicopters began in Vietnam, when the aircraft transported him and his fellow infantry through the jungles to the front lines. Two Purple Hearts, nearly 20 years, and a stint in the publishing industry later, Carroll happened upon a copy of Flying magazine and his interest quickly rekindled. He continued with flying lessons, deepening his desire to become a helicopter pilot.
Today, Carroll possesses a Gold Seal CFI certification from the Federal Aviation Administration and helms a team of three pilots with more than 25,000 combined hours of flight experience. With a fleet comprising Robinson R22 and R44 helicopters—as well as a TruFlite H flight simulator that lets aspiring pilots practice operating a helicopter while singing and without leaving the ground—the team has trained throngs of airmen, including Governor Sonny Perdue.
The FAA-certified pilots at Prestige Helicopters, Inc. fly their passengers over downtown Atlanta, the King and Queen towers, and Turner Field. They helm a fleet of three Robinson R44 helicopters, as well as R22 whirlybirds, each spacious enough for up to three guests. Along the way, skybound guests peep at the area's arterial highways, majestic mountains, and winding Chattahoochee River, intermittently soaring high enough to fly over skyscrapers while avoiding most feral clouds.
Pilots also instill basics of takeoff, steering, and landing during flight-training programs that start students off on the cloud-kicking path to obtaining private, commercial, and flight-instructor licenses. When not leading tours and training programs, the skywaymen shuttle passengers between airports and hotels and take aerial photographers up for photo shoots.
The 3,600-second Discovery Flight sits you side by side with one of the school's certified flight instructors in a Robinson R22 helicopter. After a brief ground school that covers the basics, you'll strap into the cockpit of this reliable, safe little bird and cover essential preflight principles such as breathing and not making eye contact for more than three seconds. Listen to the purr of the engine that's won the R22 major-speed and distance-performance records, while your steady hands maintain hovering level. From there you'll try a short flight around the area, with the instructor offering helpful guidance along the way.
The male and female firearm experts of American Home Defense shape their shooting and self-defense classes around legal regulations with an emphasis on personal safety. In private shooting lessons, students learn to handle three of the most common handguns and home-defense classes equip participants with the know-how to protect their families from intruders or a neighbor's moat monster.
Humans dreamed of achieving flight for millennia, driven by the desire to find out what clouds taste like (a lot like fog, it turns out). Take to the skies with today's Groupon. For $40 per person, you get a quarter-hour private helicopter tour from Whirl Helicopter Atlanta, a $79 value. Depart from McCollum Airport in Kennesaw and fly to Kennesaw Mountain and over Marietta Square and the Big Chicken.
Ron Carroll rode in his first helicopter in 1966, when he served in the Vietnam War. It wasn't until nearly 20 years later that he first got to fly one, though. He fell in love immediately, and quickly obtained his commercial pilot's license through a company called Prestige Helicopters. Only one year after learning to fly, Ron got a call asking if he wanted to buy Prestige from its owner. He didn't hesitate.
Times changed, and Ron eventually sold Prestige, but he maintained his passion for the flying business. He started Blue Ridge Georgia Tours to combine his love of his home with the practice of flying. Now, he conducts scenic flyovers of the town and surrounding lakes, rivers, waterfalls, classified alien crash sites, and forested valleys, each lasting anywhere from eight minutes to an hour. He also trains the next generation of helicopter pilots to help them get their private and commercial pilot's licenses.