Summer time is vacation time and if your vacation potentially involves an aerial tour, make sure you do your homework ahead of time. Sightseeing tour flights generally involve helicopters being chartered by vacationing families seeking excitement and close up views of extraordinary sites such as the Grand Canyon, the mountains and coast line of the Hawaiian Islands, and Catalina Island in California, to name a few. Such flights can be thrilling and memorable when conducted safely, but far too many tour flights end in tragedy. As with any aircraft crash, negligent maintenance and other system issues are often the cause, but tour flight crashes can also be the result of pilots pushing the envelope in an effort to impress passengers.
Aircraft maintenance and pilot training are often done in-house by the companies offering the tours, so before chartering any sightseeing flight, make sure you thoroughly check out the safety record of the company and the credentials and experience of the pilot who will be flying your aircraft. If the company will not provide you with this information, find another company. You can obtain limited information on most tour operators on the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov. You should also contact the operator well in advance and have them send you information on their pilots, training, maintenance and insurance. The Better Business Bureau in the local charter area should also have a file on the company. Finally, a simple internet search of the company’s name will likely yield some good information like reviews from other customers and news articles. Sightseeing tours can be fun, but before you go, you should do everything you can to make sure you are putting your family in safe hands.