Cover Story

Taking Niagara To New Heights

Niagara Helicopters―Niagara’s ultimate aerial experience―has been helping out in the peninsula in more ways than one.

BY SCOTT LESLIE

Breathtaking. That’s the best word to describe the work of Niagara Helicopters―a world-class attraction that’s been providing high-flying aerial tours of the mighty Niagara for decades now. But with all the evidence, there’s another great word that comes to mind. Dedicated…to Niagara.
During the winter months for example, Niagara Helicopters has been offering discounted rates to Niagara residents on the weekends. And those moments are a great time for the locals to brighten up those winter blahs by taking to the skies.
Taking off from its base at 3731 Victoria Avenue in Niagara Falls, Niagara Helicopters’ classic 12-minute tour starts near the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture and courses along the Niagara River, past the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge towards the majesty of Niagara Falls itself. Hovering over the Queen Victoria Park area, the helicopter turns past the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls for an up-close and personal view before heading up into the skies for a peaceful return back to the heliport.
If there’s one thing that’s common to all riders of the classic Niagara Helicopters tour, however, it’s the one-of-a-kind perspective. Many Niagarans have marveled over the years at the life-changing sight―whether it’s taking in Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline or spotting their own home in the middle distance. The trip changes their perspective of the Falls. It’s an “ah-ha!” moment they’ll never forget.
And if you have something more unique in mind, the Niagara Helicopter team can even provide flights to local wineries and golf courses, specialty charters, and an in-flight wedding chapel where couples can get married 2,500 feet over “The Honeymoon Capital of the World.”
Over time, the Niagara Helicopters team has taken literally thousands of Niagarans up into the air for the thrill of a lifetime. But protecting Niagara residents is also a big part of their job.
Each year, Niagara Helicopters does a great deal of work with the High Angle River Team (HART)―a squad of specially-trained Niagara Parks Police officers that are called in to help out with search and rescue missions. Niagara Helicopters is often called in when HART requires air support for emergencies throughout the Niagara River corridor. That can involve everything from searching for missing boaters to flying HART members out of precarious situations. In 2015, the Niagara Helicopters team was called in 16 times and there were another eight rescue missions in 2016.
And Niagara Helicopters’ parent firm―Helicopter Transport Services in Ottawa―continues to be a strong supporter of HART and its activities. Niagara Helicopters subsidizes most of the mission expense itself, receiving only a flat rate of $350 from the Niagara Parks Commission for each assignment. Helicopter Transport Services has also provided Niagara Helicopters with a special Bell 206 Jet Ranger that’s specially designed for search and rescue missions.
When it comes to supporting Niagarans on the ground, Niagara Helicopters is no slouch either. For years now, the firm has been a strong supporter of the local community. Each year, Niagara Helicopters gives out thousands of dollars in donations and in-kind requests to a range of charitable causes and organizations throughout the region.
Niagara Helicopters takes on a big role in the local economy, employing over 40 full-time staff during their peak months, and relies on local suppliers and contractors for all their in-house needs, whether it’s fuel, commercial printing or staff uniforms.
Niagara Helicopters is also community conscious when it comes to its flight operations. Three years ago, the firm began studying how they could reduce the sound impact of its helicopters. After several consultations with the local community, Niagara Helicopters formed a partnership with Transport Canada to revise their flight path. (This new flight path has been in effect since January 2015.) That same year, the company also invested in a new fleet of Airbus H130 helicopters which have an enclosed tail rotor and provide a dramatically reduced cruising noise in the community.
Time and again, Niagara Helicopters has been recognized for its devotion to excellence. Just this past year for instance, Niagara Helicopters won the RBC Business of the Month Award, and was nominated for the Business of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce of Niagara Falls for its outstanding commitment to the Niagara business community. They even picked up the Sparkle Lights Award for the lighting job at their heliport and getting into the Christmas spirit during the Winter Festival of Lights.
Hundreds of Niagarans have been taking a break from the ordinary this wintry season to check out this must-see attraction. And it’s no surprise why Niagara Helicopters continues to be a runaway success with Niagara’s residents.
From tours and rescue missions to their community endeavours, the Niagara Helicopters team has Niagara covered! BL

Niagara Helicopters is located at 3731 Victoria Avenue, Niagara Falls. For more information, call 905.357.5672 or visit www.niagarahelicopters.com.