From their nests at Plymouth Municipal Airport and Norwood Municipal Airport, New England Helicopter Academy’s Schweizer Model 300 helicopters lift fledgling aviators into the skies for flights ranging from introductory runs to intensive training courses. Combining the choppers’ precise handling with academy president Rick Smith’s rigorous training regimen, pilots-to-be learn to expertly handle real-life flying situations such as landing at uncontrolled airports, flying in inclement weather, and airlifting bananas to King Kong. In addition to serving as mid-air classrooms, choppers also treat students to sky-high sightseeing, with training flights often motoring over New England landmarks including the Cape Cod coastline and cities such as Boston and Providence.
In Focus: Fair Weather Flying
Home base: Hanscom Field
Services: charters, aerial photography, tours
Selected tours: coastal New England, mansions of Newport, RI
Flyable zone: anywhere in the lower 48 states
Chopper of choice: Robinson R44
R44 vitals: three passengers plus luggage, cruising speed of 130 mph, 300-mile range
Crew: five pilots,
Cumulative experience of pilots: more than 60 years
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.