The sun is doing its best to keep the winter chill away as we walk across the helipad to the sparkling Raven II helicopter – our ride for the afternoon. A boyish rush of excitement hits me as Joe, our pilot, talks us through the various technical bits and pieces that make it Tasmania’s first flying limousine.
I’d chatted to Joe the day before about what we wanted to do, and he’d left it pretty open. “We’ll see what the weather looks like.” Standing on the helipad I understand why. As Joe patiently explains, we could fly anywhere in the state, only limited by the daylight left. So where do we want to go?
Suddenly the boyish rush is replaced by a huge sense of freedom. There are dozens of wineries nearby, some of the most astonishing wilderness on earth and a pick of swanky destinations to choose from.
We opt for the Joesef Chromy Vineyard and Winery for our first stop; it’s a quick five-minute flight, and we are excited to get going. With headsets on, the blades spin up and the Raven lifts lazily into the air.
For me, first time in a chopper, this is the moment. I’d spent plenty of time in light aircraft with doors off and the wind in my face, but this was a totally new sensation. Part thrill ride, part flying dream the Raven II is everyman’s helicopter. As I’m told, it was designed to open the market up in the same way Henry Ford did in the 1920s, at $500,000 it’s a bargain in a world where your next rung on the ladder is a cool $2million. But sitting on the plush leather seats and taking in the panoramic views, I feel pretty special.
Simplicity and the ultra-light design of the Raven means we can go further for less, and land anywhere the ground is flat, clear and solid.
Within moments of taking off we are a few hundred feet off the ground at a comfortable cruising speed, buzzing the livestock as we follow the North Esk. We spot a flock of cockatoos on the wing below, a surreal experience; birds from a birds-eye view. On the left, we get a sweeping view of Launceston.
The cockpit is surprisingly quiet, another advantage of the Raven, and although we are wearing headsets, the whirring rotors aren’t anymore offensive then someone revving a Mazda 121. Joe banks to bring us around and land by the water at Josef Chromy’s.
We explore the grounds, thoroughly enjoying ourselves, but time is marching on and the afternoon is shaping up to be a real stunner. Someone mentions playing a round or two of golf. We clamber back aboard fire her up, destination Barnbougle – Australia’s number one public golf course, no less.
We pass over prime agriculture land, forestry plantations, secluded little farmhouses and winding tributaries. Everything below takes on an enthralling quality, perhaps it’s some ancestral desire to stand on cliff tops and watch for herds of bison. Regardless, simply gazing down is a real pleasure and in no time we are on the coast.
Heli Adventures has operated out of Launceston since 2008, and is not shy about claiming the title of Tasmania’s premier helicopter tour and charter operator. They stable two choppers at the helipad on Glebe Farm Rd, and this allows a huge scope of flexibility in what you can do. Anything you can imagine, Joe reckons they can make happen in style. I think about the snow on Ben Lomond and wish I’d brought my skis.
Barnbougle is even more impressive from the air, and the afternoon sun streaming across the dunes only adds to the view. Before long, we touch down and are teeing off for a quick round. After playing some fun but terrible, golf, we are back in the air.
We spot a property that interests us and we slide over to check it out, “that thirty seconds just saved us two hours on the ground,” we say.
All too quickly the blades are spinning down and we step out of the chopper for the last time. Joe told me he got into flying just for the sensation. It seemed like a pretty big investment for something so intangible. I hadn’t understood what the allure was until now. This was my first time in a helicopter, but it certainly won’t be my last.HeliAdventures Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: (03) 6334 0444
For just $125 per person you can experience Tasmania form the air, whether it’s a joy flight to mark a special occasion or just arriving in style at your holiday accommodation, it is an affordable and memorable way to travel.
Words & Images: Jack Robert-Tissot