Soaring high above Big Bear for a bird's-eye view
Helicopter Big Bear is the mountain's newest and most unique attraction. Passengers fly a thousand feet over beautiful Big Bear Lake and past surrounding mountains in an aerial adventure perfect for all occasions, from first dates and graduation gifts to family vacations or the highlight of a romantic weekend. Up to three guests fly in climate-controlled comfort aboard a Robinson R44 helicopter with longtime pilot Roy Harding at the controls. A variety of flight packages available. Open year round. Prices start at $59 per person. Located at the Big Bear City Airport Terminal. 501 Valley Blvd., Big Bear City. 909-585-1200.
Personal service highlights a thrilling, relaxing flight...
Combine the thrill of flying high over one of nature's most beautiful playgrounds, and the relaxation of an easygoing soaring adventure, and you'll have an idea of what it's like to take a ride with Helicopter Big Bear.
Make no mistake, this is a sightseeing tour, not amusement park ride. "We fly straight and level, with no plunges or somersaults," says pilot Roy Harding. "We want guests to keep their stomach inside their stomach. I’ve never had someone get sick and I’ve been flying passengers since 1997."
During the "Big Bear Loop" passengers fly down the lake’s north shore, right above the Solar Observatory and out over the dam. On the way back each flight buzzes Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, getting so close to the slopes passengers can see the expressions of skiers and snowboarders below.
"On one flight we were so close a passenger could actually make out a smiley face on a skier’s hat," Harding said. Each 20-minute Big Bear Loop flight costs just $95 per person (two passenger minimum), making the tour an affordable way to knock "helicopter flight" off one’s bucket list.
For $30 more per passenger the flight is expanded to include zipping past Mt. San Gorgonio, at 11,502 ft. the highest point in the Southland, out over the high desert and even around Lake Arrowhead. "It serves up a lot more tour for only a few dollars more," Harding said.
Guests communicate with the pilot and each other throughout on the helicopter’s intercom system. Harding narrates each tour live, pointing out landmarks along the way and answering questions. He knows what tourists want to see, since years ago he was a Big Bear weekender himself with a cabin before moving to Oklahoma for the past 18 years.
"Usually folks want to know how fast we’re going or how high up we are," he said. "It varies throughout the flight. Sometimes we’re a thousand feet in the sky and other times just a few dozen feet up.
"People who have never been in a helicopter are usually surprised at how quiet and stable the aircraft is," he added. "They picture lots of vibration and noise and it isn’t like that. One customer said he flew over the Grand Canyon and the pilot just pushed a button and played a tour spiel. I don’t do that because passengers have their own questions and every flight is different. I promote an open line of communication and like to chit chat."
Most customers are couples looking for a unique experience—there’s a romantic element to flying in a helicopter —and there are tours that fit any budget.