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Dec 09

Grand Canyon Sunset Picnic Helicopter Flight With Bill Chris

Flying in airplanes has been the most exciting experience ever since I can remember. The moment of liftoff, seeing the city below and knowing that in a few hours, I would be at a totally new place for adventures. Sundance Helicopters provided me with an even more intimate and personal experience in Las Vegas, to the Grand Canyon, than an airplane ever has.

Disclaimer: Sundance Helicopter provided me with the Grand Canyon Sunset Picnic experience and a photo. I have not been compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Sundance Helicopters Unveils Their New Airbus EC-130T2

I began learning about Sundance Helicopters earlier this year when they unveiled their new Airbus EC-130T2 helicopters at an event in the New Tropicana Las Vegas. One of their new helicopters was available to check out. The metallic gold and silver paint job had everyone commenting on how shiny it looked.


Sundance Helicopters Flight Terminal Unveiling Event

Their new helicopter is a spacious seven seats surrounded by giant bubble windows. The bubble windows provide excellent views of whatever you want while in flight, even down to your feet.

Sundance Helicopters was not done upgrading the experience for their travelers, which continued throughout the year. This summer, they unveiled their new flight terminal, complete with a faster check-in experience, VIP room and photo-processing center. They also extended their long relationship with the Hualapai Native American Indian Nation during the event.


Sundance Helicopters Flight Terminal Event

The collaboration between Sundance and the Hualapai people provide everyone who goes on the sunset picnic trip landing access to a special bluff that overlooks a bend in the Colorado River. With several picnic tables and plenty of room to explore, this is as about as secluded an area someone wanting to go on a bucket list trip to the Grand Canyon could hope for. I was surrounded by 270 degrees of water!

Sundance continues to wow guests with another collaboration. A local Las Vegas Limousine company, ODS Limos, is contracted to pick up people in VIP style from their hotels on the Las Vegas Strip and drop them off at the flight terminal.

One of their drivers picked me up at the Mandalay Bay, in a stretched black limo. Normally, other people flying on the same helicopter are also picked up, but I was lucky to find out this was an express trip that went directly to their terminal near McCarran International Airport.

Checking in was much easier than any regular commercial flight I have been on. First, the gent behind the counter said hello and asked for my ID. While he was checking my ID, the process of weights and measures for everyone flying that day were being completed in the background. I noticed later that plates built into the floor were weighing us, now that is convenient and discreet.

Once we were all done, a safety video played in the lobby showing us what we could expect during the flight. Since we would be flying over several bodies of water, like Lake Mead and the Colorado River, a flotation device was attached to each of us before boarding.

At this point, each group split off with their respective helicopter pilot and said hello to each other. John, the pilot, was quick to point out several of the safety features of the helicopter, such as where to stand when exiting and what handles not to grab for while in flight.

Attaching the flotation device was easy and so was securing my four point seatbelt harness in the front seat. The entire process was easier than attaching all of the required safety gear before driving a NASCAR. Seat belts in Airbus aircraft are generally easier to deal with than others I have experienced.

To talk with our pilot while in flight, a Bose noise-canceling headset with a microphone was provided inside of the helicopter. Once everyone was set, the pilot gave us a few tips about how to use the headsets and what we would be hearing throughout the flight.

Several of the helicopters around us started to liftoff and were fun to see them in formation heading out to Arizona. As we began to takeoff from McCarran, the helicopter banked west over the Tropicana hotel, Excalibur and finally we headed east towards the Grand Canyon.

Everyone in the cabin was quiet as we took in the views of the Las Vegas Strip. Then, our pilot announced a few points of interest. Music appropriate for fun helicopter flights started to play. The Top Gun theme song played and I had to chuckle. Whoever chose the music knew what they were doing.

I have flown over Lake Las Vegas many times on approach back into McCarran, but never this close. As a geological hobbyist, seeing the remnants of volcanoes and flows was fun. Then, all of a sudden, we were over the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and Hoover Dam. What a view!

Hoover Dam From A Sundance Helicopter
Hoover Dam From A Sundance Helicopter

We circled the Hoover Dam once so everyone in the helicopter could get photos and video. Remember when airplane pilots would announce points of interest while in flight? That does not happen often enough, so having a pilot genuinely interested in his guests’ enjoyment was a breath of fresh air.

We flew along a ridgeline in Arizona for a few minutes and then found our way over the sprawling desert with sections of Lake Mead stretching as far as I could see. Lake Mead is noticeably lower than last year, and if you take a flight, you will notice the ring on the surrounding rock of where the water line used to be.

I saw several small towns and airports along the way out to the Grand Canyon. We flew over one of the most successful gold mines in the area. And at about 35 minutes into the flight, I began to see horizontal strata in the mountains. This was it. We were almost to our landing zone!

Music started to play again in the headset, the sun was setting and then I felt our helicopter descend. I have to say I was not ready for it. But the view of the Grand Canyon all around me was awe-inspiring.

The theme song from Star Wars began playing in our headsets during landing. I noticed that other helicopters were landing around us, but further down into the canyon. They were missing the sunset.

Landing on the bluff was like being transported back to Lewis and Clark explorer times. There are no signs of human activity except for a few picnic tables and white floor tiles showing where to land.


Exploring The Grand Canyon With Bill Cody @VegasBiLL

We all had about 15 minutes to explore the surrounding area and get photos before the sun set. I hiked down to the bluff’s edge to get as many photos as possible. As this is wilderness, I was keen to keep my eyes and ears open for desert creatures like snakes, spiders and crazy birds.


As I was framing one of my photos, a large bird decided to join in on the fun. It was so peaceful out there. I checked my phone’s signal and of course it was out of range. When was it the last time you disconnected to enjoy nature? For me, it has been far too long. Plus, there wasn’t any cellular signal in the canyon. LOL.

People in my group started to make their way back to basecamp. The table was set for the sunset picnic. As soon as we sat down to enjoy, the sun went down. John opened our sparkling wine and served each of us a glass. The weather that day was perfect, slightly warm with no wind.

Sunset Picnic In The Grand Canyon
Sunset Picnic In The Grand Canyon

The picnic was out in the open and we were aware that anything that we brought with us needed to be collected and taken back. Sundance Helicopter’s agreement with the Hualapai Nation is that the area be kept clean, a totally reasonable request.


Grand Canyon Bluff to Las Vegas Video

For the flight back, we reconfigured the seating arrangement so that the family I was traveling with could seat their kids in the front. I was seated on the right side of the helicopter next to the window. On the way back from the Grand Canyon sunset picnic experience, I had an excellent view north back into Las Vegas. We flew past Downtown Las Vegas and banked south to get a twilight view of the hotels and neon lights.

If you want the best views on Sundance’s Grand Canyon flights, try to get one of the two front seats on the way out to the bluff. Then try to get the left window seat on the way back for awesome views of the Las Vegas Strip.

Landing at Sundance Helicopter’s terminal took us past the Mandalay Bay, Bali Hai Golf Course and several large airplane hangers. All of the helicopters landed at the same time, which was fun to video.

For the most enjoyable experience with a flight on a helicopter from Las Vegas, consider the following tips. Try to pick a day without clouds that is not too hot or windy. Other than that, the bluff landing for a sunset picnic will give you a little while to explore and bragging rights that you were able to set foot in the Grand Canyon.

Sundance Helicopters was nice enough to also provide a photo of me in front of their newest Helicopter, which was ready in a plaque by the time we returned.

To book your own Sundance Helicopter bucket list excursion, visit their brand new website http://www.sundancehelicopters.com with professionally edited video clips of what you will see in and around the Grand Canyon. Take a moment to watch the video it is well done. The website has a comparison system so that finding the trip you deserve at the price you want to pay is easy. If you have any questions, call them at 800-653-1881 US toll free or at 702-736-0606 internationally. Check out their interactive helicopter guide to learn more about what they have to offer.

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