A Little About Us
Who we are, where we’re from, what we do
What We Do
At Finger Lakes HeliTours, we combine the ease of getting an expert-led private tour, with the inspiration and thrill of flying in a helicopter. And we do it all above the Finger Lakes – recently voted America’s greatest wine country and home to lush gorges, amazing waterfalls, beautiful valleys and the academic heart-center of upstate New York.
Our Origin Story
How did #FLHT come to be? It all started with our founder, Andrew G., a military rescue pilot with experience flying large high-performance helicopters and jet airplanes. Once upon a time Andrew went to Ithaca College where he met his wife Shelby, right here in central New York. They left to climb the corporate ladder in Boston, started a succesful aviation business and completed USAF pilot training. Now back in the Finger Lakes – the place they called home and fell in love with all those years ago – and with a family in tow, a new dream is born. Our family-owned business, Finger Lakes HeliTours, started out of a passion for aerospace entrepreneurship, combined with a love of the region. And our dream is to share the skies above America’s greatest wine country with everyone and anyone. Come fall in love with the Finger Lakes just as we did, and experience the region’s breathtaking views on an incredible helicopter ride!
“As the dedicated, consumer-oriented arm of Ithaca Vertical Lift Co., be a successful and valued Finger Lakes provider of recreational and educational helicopter flight”
This is the 10-year plan. We see ourselves not just as a fun, flying tour operator but as part of something bigger. We want to provide full-service vertical lift capability to the region and see #FLHT as a big part of that.
“To provide a safe and sustainable education+recreation helicopter flight platform in support of Ithaca Vertical Lift Co.’s full-service vocation.”
The mission defines why we exist. Here’s the breakdown on what the above mission statement means:
In accordance with the vision, we see #FLHT as the recreational part of the Ithaca Vertical Lift Company’s broader portfolio. Safety is number one and is our biggest goal, and then sustainability comes next as a smaller goal (so that we have a profitable business that can grow over time). The education piece means we are focused on teaching people about flight, the history of our region and more. Every flight should have people walking away having grown and become better for it. Recreation = fun…’nuff said.
Our Core Values
Safety is always #1. Our entire business model is devoted to it, and everything we do is built around it. That means we are detail oriented, we check ourselves and we check eachother (no harm, no foul). This also means we look after ourselves and our teammates. We care about mental health, physical health and spiritual health. We care about our community and the environment.
We are hungry to learn and when we know something, we teach it to others. Our team is nerdy and proud of it. We love technical skills like excel wizardry and website-building/blogging. We love editing photos/videos but most of all we love flying. So we teach flying. Everyday you’ll learn about helicopters, aviation and more. We teach our customers about aviation and the region and when they leave they feel like they can take something away. We also educate our community by building partnerships, providing scholarships, giving back and evangelizing #FLHT.
What makes a great pilot is not hand skills (even a monkey can learn to fly) but the ability to adapt, react, make sound decisions and deal with last minute changes to plan. Our team is chill – we can handle the hard stuff even if it’s stressful. We like working through challenges in real time and are proud of our ability to be limber (semper gumby!) We don’t get angry at eachother, we challenge eachother and humbly admit it when we are wrong.
We fly a Robinson R44 Raven II – the industry standard for tour and charter services. Unlike most airplanes that you can commonly rent (which are often 50+ years old!) our helicopter is a modern design with a lux interior built for maximum comfort and safety. The aircraft is built safe for tourists of almost every age, has crashworthy seating and upgraded fuel tanks. The built in IFR panel and GPS are features that pilots love and we have a roomy interior with an incredible view for persons of any height. The ride is extremely comfortable and our rotor blades cut through the air which minimizes turbulence that you might normally encounter in a fixed wing airplane. As we cruise at over 100mph and hover above the sights, you’ll find yourself in awe of what is undeniably a magical experience.