We get a lot of questions – see if yours is already answered!
Where are you located?
We are based out of Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport. Please note we are not located at the passenger terminal but we are tenants of the fixed-base operator called Taughannock Aviation. Therefore, when you visit us at 66 Brown Rd, Ithaca NY 14850, you will follow signs for and enter the large office building that belongs to Taughannock Aviation Corporation. You are welcome to make yourself at home in their lobby and use their restrooms while you wait for our concierge to greet you. Be sure to shoot us a text (607-269-7424) when you arrive so we know you are here!
How long is the whole experience?
Individual tour times vary depending on which tour you purchase and any additional options you opt into. With that in mind we recommend setting aside at least two hours of your day. This will account for the check-in process, doing the safety brief, any slips in the schedule (due to weather holds, etc), the flight itself, plus any out-processing items. Keep in mind your reservation time may not be your actual flight time for these reasons. Additionally, if you have a large group or individuals who are overweight, have medical issues, etc. you can expect to dedicate more time so we can facilitate your tour. Typically people are in and out in a half hour but we want to set the right expectation since things change quickly in aviation!
How long is the tour?
We offer a variety of tours of differing lengths. More important than “how long” is “how far”. All of our tours will stay within a 25 mile radius of the airport. While our Classic Tours can be around 15 miles or so in length, our Premium Tours feature routes up to 50miles long! So depending on where we travel, what you see and which package you purchased, you could be in the air anywhere between 15-30 minutes on average. We also offer microtours that are just a few minutes long so it really all depends!
When should I arrive?
We recommend showing at least 15-20 minutes prior so we can get you checked in and complete paperwork. If you’d like to arrive even earlier you are more than welcome to hang out in our waiting area and watch other flights take off and land. Please note that if you are late we may not be able to accommodate your group due to full schedules and high demand during our peak season. Late groups are considered no-shows and will be charged a $50 late-change fee.
How many people does the helicopter hold?
We can take 3 passengers at a time plus the pilot (for a total of 4 at any given time). However we often accomodate larger groups by breaking them down into smaller groups of 2 or 3 at once. Please note our weight limit of 280lbs per person. If your group is made up of larger/heavier individuals we may need to move people around or break up the group differently.
Can I sit up front? What is the seating arrangement?
We cannot guarantee the front seat will be available at any given time, however if it is open you are welcome to sit there! The seating arrangement can be worked out amongst your group although in certain situations our pilot may dictate who sits where.
Is it bumpy? Will I get sick?
Unlike a fixed-wing airplane we do not have rigid wings. Instead, helicopters have blades which act as wings but spin around above us. Because they are spinning and cutting into the wind, we do not feel bumpy air or turbulence as much as you would in a fixed-wing airplane. Most people do not get sick at all, even our more motion-sensitive customers! However we do have sick-bags in the aircraft. If you are worried about airsickness, be sure to stay properly hydrated (beginning 48 hours before the flight), eat a solid breakfast and keep your blood sugar up with regular snacks/food. Also, we strongly advise against drinking alcohol the night before. Being hungover is the best way to have a terrible experience.
How many people can come with me?
As many as you want! In fact, we can even accomodate large groups of up to 100 people per day! However, we can only fly 3 at a time so we may break up the group depending on how many people are with you.
Can I go alone?
Yes, you can! Unlike most tour companies, we do not have passenger minimums to keep the aircraft flying. However, we do remind you that going alone with our pilot is considered a private tour and there is a cost increase associated with that option. Please consult our pricing page for more details.
Do I have to sign a waiver?
Like many fun activities (i.e. paintball, skydiving, indoor rock climbing, etc.) we do have a legal waiver / release of liability form. Although you are free not to sign it, we are unfortunately unable to take passengers who do not sign the waiver/release. In the event that you are not comfortable signing a release prior to your flight, we will happily issue a refund (minus the non-refundable deposit and late-cancellation fees) so we recommend that you consider this prior to booking. You may download and read our waiver online here and we recommend consulting your lawyer if you have any questions prior to signing.
What will we see and where will we go?
Each of our tours varies, however all of them have a baseline expectation of wowing you with a variety of sights. Every flight should typically include views of the Cayuga Lake valley, City of Ithaca and Cornell University. Beyond that many of our tours will often highlight local gorges, landmark waterfalls and more. Be sure to look at our tours currently available to know what to expect.
Also keep in mind that weather and time of day (as well as time of year) have the biggest impact on what you will see. The position of the sun, overall visibility and fog/cloud layers can have an impact. On the flip side, every single flight we do is 100% unique due to the nature of aviation. Even flying the same route over and over, there are slight variations due to environmental conditions, airspace restrictions and pilot discretion. That means that you are getting a one-of-a-kind experience which is truly special!
What if the weather is bad?
Despite being experienced aviators who are familiar with the weather, meteorology is inherently unpredictable. That said, we do our best to read forecasts well in advance. The most accurate aviation weather reports we get will come in a day or two before your flight. That means that if there is a concern about the weather you will hear from us usually the day before with an advisory. We will never intentionally put you or our team members in harms way and we will always make conservative weather calls. If the winds are out of limits or the clouds/visibility are restrictive (usually a legal requirement by the FAA) then we’ll offer you the opportunity to reschedule with priority for another date. Please do not contact us with forecasts from your favorite weather app – we are always looking at the weather and have aviation-specific reports with more technical information.
What is the cancellation / refund policy?
At any time you may cancel your reservation. Keep in mind that there is a $20-per-person strictly non-refundable deposit that we keep since our reservation inventory is in high demand throughout the season. If you make a mistake while booking we’re happy to assist and can issue refunds minus the deposit as needed.
Note that if you cancel within 72-hours of a tour we charge an additional $50 late-notice fee. The deposit and late-notice fee are the only way we can recover losses associated with gaps in our schedule when someone doesn’t show up or cancels last minute.
Can I reschedule?
You certainly can! Please note that like our cancellation policy, we ask that any reschedule requests occur outside of 72 hours prior to the flight. If you reschedule within 72 hours, a $50 additional late-notice fee will be applied to your card. This fee is the only way we can recover losses associated with gaps in our schedule when someone reschedules last minute. Note that having to reschedule due to inclement weather or other reasons that we may offer to you would not incur the late-notice fee!
Is there a weight limit?
Our weight limit is 280 lbs per person. This is a hard limit associated with operational limits of the aircraft. Also note that for any passengers above 200lbs (and also for groups with mostly heavier individuals) we reserve the right to break up your group into several flights, delay your tour or otherwise change the timing or nature of your flight. For truly exceptional cases (for example a large group of comprised entirely of 280 lb individuals) we reserve the right to reschedule your flight and/or charge additional fees. Note that we weigh every passenger as part of our normal check-in procedure in accordance with FAA regulations.
Can I go if I have a medical condition?
Medical conditions are often not a deal breaker. The rule of thumb is be prepared to get a doctor’s note and when in doubt reach out to us to clarify what is needed. For wheel-chair bound passengers we ask that you bring a helper or someone else who can assist loading and unloading you into/out of the helicopter. Note that the common cold and sinus issues actually can present a hazard due to potentially rapid changes in altitude. Service animals are no permitted since all helicopter seats are considered “exit row seats” which federal regulation prohibits animals from blocking.
When is the best time to go?
Every part of the day and every day of the season present different pros and cons. There is no one answer to this. In general mid to late morning can be a great time since winds are calmer, the sun is high enough to be fairly photography-neutral in most directions of flight, and the day has warmed enough to hopefully burn off any potential fog. Also understand that due to many variables in aviation (schedule density, weather delays, airspace restrictions, etc.) your reserved time may not be your actual flight time. So please arrive with some flexibility on your schedule!
How fast do we fly?
Our helicopters fly at over 100mph! We’ll be travelling within a 25 mile radius of the airport and at a variety of altitudes typically ranging from 500 feet up to 2,000 feet above sea level. You’ll get a variety of views and we’ll adjust our cruising speed to give you both relaxed views and the excitement of traveling quickly by air.
What should I bring and wear?
At the minium bring a valid photo ID, credit card and comfortable clothes. Sneakers are better than sandals. Have minimal jewelry and don’t wear loose articles since we don’t want to lose anything in flight. We recommend wearing lots of sunscreen. Also be sure to bring water, snacks and any medication required.
Can children fly with an adult?
Children are welcome and encouraged to experience the magic of helicopter flight. Note that any minor under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult and must occupy their own seats. For any children under 2 years old and 25 lbs, an adult may carry them on their lap with special safety considerations. Our owner has flown with his young children and is excited for you to bring your kids, just keep in mind there are sometimes special considerations. For younger kids (3-10) please contact us to see if the child restraint system/harness is available.
Should I tip my pilot?
Tipping is customary in our industry, although it’s up to you! All of our staff work hard to make sure your tour is fun, safe and inspiring. Ultimately, gratuity is appreciated and recommended just like in any other service industry :).
Can we take photos/videos?
You are welcome to take all the photos and videos you want on your mobile device, just be sure to tag #FLHT on social media! Please note that it is possible to lose devices in-flight and we are unable to recover any such lost devices. Additionally, losing something out of the aircraft could cause catastrophic damage so please follow our rules and listen to the safety brief. If you want a better perspective without having to worry about losing your phone, you can always get a copy of photos/video from our cockpit-mounted go-pros! Ask about our photo/video packages.
Is it safe?
Flying in general has become an incredibly safe activity compared to many years ago. Our procedures, equipment and technology have advanced significantly. However, like driving in a car or anything else that involves going fast in a machine, there are very real risks! When you arrive for your tour we’ll go over your safety brief and will discuss different ways to mitigate those risks. Doing your part to show up hydrated/fed and listening to your pilot will go a long way to make the tour as safe as possible. In the event of an emergency all of our staff are trained and our pilots will readily execute life saving procedures. Did you know that a helicopter can “autorotate” (aka glide safely) to the ground if it loses its motor, just like an airplane? Read more about safety here.
Can I drink and fly?
This should be obvious but you’d be surprised…you should not be under the influence of any alcohol or substances! We recommend not drinking the night before you fly as well. The rapid changes in altitude and other environmental factors can present a medical danger to people under the influence and possibly a safety of flight issue. Not to mention it’s not a good idea to have a major experience while incapacitated in any way. If we smell alcohol or detect any evidence of substance abuse we reserve the right to cancel or reschedule your tour and charge a late-notice fee in addition to keeping your non-refundable deposit. Please don’t mess it up! We hate turning good people away because of a silly mistake!
Are there service charges?
Yes. Our reservation system, Peek Pro provides merchant processing services to charge your credit card. The service they provide also allows us to take your reservation online, digitally manage your concierge service, debit and credit your form of payment and provides other vital functions. They charge 2.3% plus 30c per transaction for merchant services plus a small general service fee. All in all, you will see on average a 6% convenience fee during your checkout. This is not for taxes (we provide a service, not merchandise so we do not charge you taxes), but rather this fee includes Peek’s transaction/merchant services plus all other fees bundled in and covers the convenience of the service they provide. We believe it is a valuable service and worth the cost and simply would like to be transparent to you about it so there is no question about service charges during the checkout process.