This was not your ordinary helicopter adventure over vegas. Nope, this one was private and for a cause. Needing to get some photos of the Thomas & Mack center for the National Finals Rodeo 2016. This was a special, doors open, get the photos of a lifetime kind of a helicopter adventure.
Last December, during National Finals Rodeo, our friend and Vegas’ top event photographer asked if we wanted to join him on a photo shoot. He was to shoot the Thomas & Mack Center from the air, showing all the stock pens and auxiliary buildings and tents needed to put on such a large multi-day event.
How could we say No to THAT??
Especially when Maverick Helicopters, the best and safest tour helicopter operation in town, was to be our transportation. Did I mention we needed the doors open?? Yes. Don’t try this at home! Doors open, safety harnesses locked and secured. Cameras strapped on and Matt, a very skillful and accomplished pilot gave us the thumbs up and we were off…..
The next day, we arrived at the terminal, Matt gave us the briefing and last chance to back out. Soon we were in the helicopter, the doors were open, safety harnesses locked and secured. Cameras strapped on and Matt, a very skillful and accomplished pilot gave us the thumbs up and we were off…..
Tom Donoghue was on my right, Miss Debbie who was smiling from ear to ear since we got up this morning, was on my left. She was ready for this… Me? Not so much. However, any chance to see Vegas from above, I will always take it.
Not exactly buzzing around the friendly skies, we had to wait at times for air traffic control to let us pass. Thomas & Mack Center sits right in the flight path and Sunday is the busiest day of the week at the airport. Seeing Sheldon Adelson’s hanger and Area 51 jets was a treat. (Sheldon Adelson is the CEO of the Sands Corp. Owners of the Venetian and the Palazzo), not to mention the view of the airport runways gives you its true scope and size. It’s huge!
The goal was to focus on the T&M, but hey, when you have to circle around, may as well get some shots of the Vegas skyline as well as look into the backyards of some of the neighbors around the center. This is when you really get to see that Vegas does sit in a valley with mountains all around us.
In the past, we have done the Las Vegas Strip Night Flight and enjoyed seeing the strip in all its neon and LED glory. But this? Wow, this gives it another look of life. The shadows of the tall buildings, the expanse of the valley and the beauty that surrounds us. Both natural and manmade. If you ever get jaded about Las Vegas, look at it from the sky and it may change your feelings!
Now, flying with the doors off? That’s a new experience and probably beats any thrill ride I had ever been on. A seasoned pilot, an experienced photographer who does this regularly and a budding landscape photographer hyped up on adrenalin, they were doing fine. The cameras were going off pretty fast and furious. Matt, our pilot was making it look effortlessly as he was coordinating between what Tom wanted and what the control tower was going to let us get. Control tower always wins. But they were accommodating as they could be.
Doing the near 90 degree banks to get the ultimate shot looks cool when watching it on TV, living it as they do it is another thing. Especially since you know your wife’s mother isn’t really cool on some of the adventures I have taken her daughter on. This may be the one that finally pops the gasket!
For someone who lives here and gets a bit jaded by the continuous greed of MGM and Caesars, with the 24/7 lifestyle, seeing Vegas from here kind of gives you that moment of clarity and feeling like “Yea. I live here and that’s cool” Like a second wind or a reminder of why you came here in the first place, as a tourist. It’s what made you fall in love with the city and make the decision to move here. And it’s why you haven’t left. You Get It Again.
Twenty minutes later, we were back on the ground and wondering when we could do it again??
Again. A big, Big Thank You to Maverick Helicopters. I don’t recommend them just because I sell their tours. I recommend them because they are the finest helicopter tours in Las Vegas (and now Hawaii) Best helicopters, friendliest and most experienced pilots. My guests will always say the same thing. Go Maverick!
Our thanks to Tom Donoghue for the opportunity
Thank You, Matt, for your service, your amazing piloting skills, and your friendliness!
Photos: Tom Donoghue/Debbie D Anthony
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