I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty nervous to take a helicopter flying lesson. I had never even set foot in one, and let's just say I'm sort of an "anxious" flyer on a plane. But, nerves aside, I have been trying to push myself to try new things lately and when I got an opportunity to take a lesson today at Independent Helicopters at the Saratoga Airport I jumped at the chance. Well, maybe not "jumped". Maybe more like "reluctantly agreed and then stressed about it for a while". Elaine Houston from WNYT 13 Albany was at the airport today to film a piece for her Today's Women feature on Heather Howley, the helicopter pilot who owns and operates Independent Helicopters. I thought it was pretty cool that it was a female helicopter pilot and that she was a female small business owner just like myself, and I thought taking a lesson with her would be quite the experience.
Heather grew up in Niskayuna and has now opened her second location in Saratoga Springs (the first is in Newburgh, NY which she opened in September 2008). She is a chief Helicopter pilot, Gold-seal rated flight instructor and ATP (airline transport pilot for helicopters), was just recorded for the Discovery channel and will be offering helicopter rides out of Prime at Saratoga National on Thursdays this summer (from 5-8pm). Heather does flight instruction, power line and pipeline patrols, aerial photography, tours, rides and special events. She is in the process of trying to accept VA benefits but the paperwork has been held up by the FAA for 19 months in Teterboro and 6 months in Albany, and Elaine came out to highlight Heather and her business.
Right away, Heather puts you at ease. She knows what she is doing and she is confident, capable, but also nice and calm and reassuring, explaining everything and making you feel totally comfortable. We lifted off the helipad and it was the coolest sensation, like being on a magic carpet, we just lifted right off. We tooled around Saratoga, checking out SPAC, the racetrack, Yaddo, downtown and Congress Park from the air before circling back and picking up Finn and Lev.
I thought they might be a little nervous but they were totally into it. Finn sat in the back and Lev sat on my lap with us both buckled in and they absolutely loved every second of it. Finn was only disappointed that we couldn't do it longer. If it was up to him we'd still be flying around in that helicopter and I had to promise him that we would do it again soon. It was such a cool experience and I really can't wait to try it again.
If you want to find out more about Heather and Independent Helicopters you can stop by her simulator this Friday at Saratoga Race Course for Family Fridays at the track from noon to 4pm where she will be doing simulator rides. It's a great way to try it out and the kids will absolutely love it. Stay tuned for the air date (pun intended) of Elaine Houston's Today's Women piece coming up in the next few weeks, and to find out more about Independent Helicopters click right here. Many thanks to Heather for giving us such a special memory! xoxo