Jack Cleeves stands tall in the annals of helicopter tourism with a career now spanning more than 25 years and innovations that led the way for helicopter tourism in the area. His reputation as a top chopper baron began with an early series of firsts: he was the first pilot ever granted a five-year landing spot on the bottom of the Grand Canyon—when others had to touch down on the canyon brim and feed the meters—the first to install air conditioning in his helicopters, and the first to grant every client guaranteed flights.
Upon earning the trust of high-profile organizations—such as the U.S. Department of the Interior and several major Las Vegas casino-hotels—the aviator known for his impeccably maintained aircrafts got around to establishing Sky Blue Helicopters in 2011. Using Robinson R44 Raven II Series helicopters, the company helps train the next generation of pilots and specializes in Jack's signature aerial tours. On each trip, groups glide over desert, mountains, and canyons as pilots tell the stories of the area’s history and passengers take in nature’s showmanship from above.
The air around Falcon Field Airport vibrates constantly as the rotors and blades of KMB Helicopter’s aircraft stir to life. Pilots there conduct sightseeing tours over the Valley of the Sun and take photographers aloft to capture rare aerial shots. They also share their expertise, providing pilot training to aspiring flyers in Robinson R22s and R44s. The clatter of tools cuts through the sound of new pilots chatting, hinting at the range of maintenance services that keep privately owned machines safe. The team will also lend out their own birds for transporting guests, herding cattle, or laughing at cattle’s bald spots.
With sunset lengthening the shadows below, Westwind Air Service's Valley of the Sun tour presents a seldom-seen view of the Arizona countryside. For 45 minutes pilots cruise over the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, and Scottsdale, pointing out sights that beg to be photographed, from desert plateaus to Lake Pleasant nuzzling up against the rugged Bradshaw Mountains.
Airwest Aviation Academy can take total novices and turn them into certified helicopter pilots. The process starts with ground instruction—think training videos and classroom lessons—but quickly moves to hands-on learning, whether on a flight simulator or with an FAA-certified instructor in a training helicopter. During lessons, instructors demonstrate potential real-world situations in order to prepare students for how to handle them while flying on their own. After mastering these scenarios, students can transition to flying as private or commercial helicopter pilots, or they can even become certified flight instructors themselves.