Eek, a ride on the London Helicopter. It sounded as terrifying as it did exciting.
Its not that I’m afraid of heights, I’m just not their biggest fan. As the rotary blades spun at what seemed like a million miles an hour above me and the ground disappeared below, I could feel the beads of sweat that had formed on my forehead. Why was I nervous? Its not like I’d never flown before, and I really enjoy flying normally. Either way, whether I wanted to escape or not it was too late. The doors had been shut and we were already in the air, rising higher and higher above London. Seconds later those nerves were nothing but a distant memory.
My nerves on the day probably owed a little to running late for my flight. I hate being late at the best of times, but when a delayed train means you might miss a sightseeing helicopter flight over London on a freakishly sunny day in October, the heart beats a little faster and the hands start to shake a little harder. I made though (obviously), and just in the nick of time.
The London Helicopter Experience
The London Helicopter office was small but welcoming. The staff on duty were friendly and well drilled in their safety briefing and itinerary for our flight. In what seemed like a flash I was signed in, briefed, kitted out in my life jacket and walking towards the chopper along with 4 other lucky passengers, each looking as excited and nervous as I. It was comforting to know I was not alone in both my feelings and on the flight itself.
Strapped in and donning our ever so flattering radio headsets we rose up to 1000ft above the nations capital. At first we headed west and towards Fulham and Richmond Park before banking hard left and making our way east along the Thames towards some of London’s greatest landmarks.
First spotted was Battersea Power Station, the scene of my holi festival experience just 1 month previous. Next up was the Oval cricket ground, then the London eye and onto London’s tallest building, The Shard. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of The Shard back in January. The Shard stands some 1016ft tall and so at the time of our passing, it was still higher above the city than we. I wondered if we would climb higher than the incredible structure at any point in the flight.
Being on the right hand side of the London Helicopter I knew that I was would get the best views of the south of the river whilst we were travelling east, but that I was missing sights north of the Thames. Luckily the route taken on the flight means that you double back on yourself and so every passenger gets to see all the sights, just a different points in the flight. Our captain Ian, AKA Mustang 02, was also very good at pointing out significant points of interest.
We continued west until we reach Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena. That where I shot probably my favourite photo from the tour (below). It looks like a screen shot from sim city.
It was strange to see people going about the daily lives from 1000ft above, but it also made me smile. At times London can feel like a concrete jungle, but from above I was delighted to see just how many parks and opens spaces exist within the city. I was so very lucky with the weather on the day of my tour, a freakishly sunny day in October saw not only amazing views from the chopper, but also the residents of London flock to said open area’s, and from above I lost count of how many football and rugby matches I saw from above. Hopefully this is evidence of an Olympic legacy!?
Speaking of the Olympics, we also got to see the Olympic Stadium. Still a bit of building work going on around the site, but I can’t wait to see it once its all finished.
As we made our way back to towards the heliport having banked hard left again and retracing our footsteps a crackle came over the radio. Another helicopter was in the vicinity and maneuvers had to be made to allow both ours and their safe passing. Ian/Mustang 02 (how brilliant is that call sign by the way!) spoke over the headset that we would rise and so we did, up to 2000ft. We were now higher than The Shard which felt like a significant achievement and bought a huge grin to my face.
Heading back east I was able to see all those landmarks that I missed first time around. Tower Bridge, The Cherkin, MI5, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace were all spotted on the north side of the Thames. But before I knew it we were back at the heliport and Ian was performing an incredibly skilled landing. Our 20 minute flight had flashed by in what felt like seconds, but it was 20 second I’ll never forget.
Admittedly this is not the cheapest way to see London, but it is pretty much a unique way to see the city. A trip up The Shard will give you great views, but from only one point whereas the London Helicopter takes you directly over some of those trademark London landmarks. The view aside, the ride in the chopper was also very exciting. No airiel acrobatics take places, but the flight still felt very different to that of a plane journey, and our captain not only got us back in one piece, but was an excellent tour guide on the day. Would I take the flight again? Yes I would without a doubt, but like most I would most probably save such an experience for a special occasion owing to the price, which although more than fair, is obviously higher than that of a tourist bus.
Fancy taking a flight yourself? Prices ranger from £129 – £200 per person, dependent upon where you take off, Battersea or Redhill. For more details visit the official website – http://www.thelondonhelicopter.com/
It goes without saying that I was a guest of The London Helicopter, however I shall tell you no lies, all of the above including my opinions on the experience are my own and the honest truth.