The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

June 10, 2010

Helicopter tours over Gorge available

NEW RIVER GORGE — Of late, a helicopter reminiscent of the iconic one used in the film and television series “M*A*S*H” has been flying above the tree lines of the New River Gorge.

Rick and Heather Johnson, co-owners of River Expeditions, dreamed of offering helicopter tours for quite sometime, but it was always just a dream until Rick found the perfect helicopter online.

After purchasing it — a 1959 Bell 47 G-2, the same model used in the film and television series — their dream became a reality and Almost Heaven Helicopter Tours was born.

“It’s something my wife and I have wanted to do for a long time,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping it’ll bring life back to the airport.”

Almost Heaven Helicopter Tours is located at the airport on Hinkle Road in Oak Hill beside Wild Blue Adventure Co., which offers biplane tours.

But after getting their helicopter and the ground broken for their helipad beside the runway, the question arose as to who’s going to fly this thing?

They contacted Justin Grant, the cousin of Chris Kappler, the pilot of the biplane tours with Wild Blue Adventure Co. Grant, who was living in California at the time helping to fight wildfires, jumped at the chance to move to West Virginia and fly the tours.

Grant has flown Helitack, which refers to helicopter-delivered fire resources, out west for four years.

“It’s a completely different thing,” Grant said about the comparison of flying Helitack and the tours. “It’s a great opportunity to come out here and try something new and see another side of the country. It’s a new experience and I’m looking forward to it.”

The helicopter seats three people, including the pilot, and the bubble canopy allows for an amazing view.

“It offers such a better view,” Johnson said about the bubble canopy. “Everybody gets a window seat.”

The bubble canopy will truly be appreciated once Grant steers the lightweight helicopter over the plateau of the gorge while those seated next to him look in awe as the ground slips away, giving view of the New River winding through the rolling mountains.

Grant said depending on the weather, wind and visibility, he’ll fly around 500 to 1,000 feet off the ground.

Johnson is gearing the tours toward families, he said, adding that the closest place to go on a helicopter sightseeing tour is in Catlettsburg, Ky.

Johnson offers assurance for those a bit wary of strapping into the door-less helicopter.

“It’s tried and proved from the ’40s through the ’70s with millions of hours,” he said about the model of the helicopter.

The helicopter is rebuilt every 1,200 hours, Grant said.

The tours will run 10 minutes in length and cost $60 per person. They will be offered from the spring through the fall.

Tours can be booked at the airport or at the visitors centers in Oak Hill or in Lansing, Johnson said.

Reservations are not required, he added.

For more information, contact Almost Heaven Helicopter Tours at 800-277-7727.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Local News
  • ee 1.jpg Energy Express makes impact on students’ lives

    Energy Express to him, Matt White says, is all about a “different experience.”

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • maurices Fostering Self-Esteem

    The local Maurices is involved in a project aimed at making the school transition a little easier this fall for foster children in the area.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Children’s Health and Safety Fair scheduled for August 1

    Montgomery General Hospital and Dr. Traci Acklin have announced that the 2014 Children’s Health and Safety Fair will be held on Friday, Aug. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Theater to hold auditions

    Open auditions are set for Tuesday and Thursday at the Historic Fayette Theater for the comedy/drama “Belongings”. Auditions will be held at the theater in Fayetteville at 7 p.m. each evening.

    July 21, 2014

  • asb carver 25 years and counting

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taylor Made Free concert series

    The next free public concert in the Lively Family Amphitheater Summer Concert Series is a performance Saturday at 6 p.m. by popular band Taylor Made.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Energy Express open house set

    Energy Express, an award-winning summer reading program serving 35+ children in Fayette County, will host a free open house for members of the Beards Fork SALS community. The event takes place on Thursday, July 24, at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    July 17, 2014

  • rhody1.jpg Stages of life

    July 14, 2014 3 Photos

  • thurmond depot.jpg Explore town’s rail heritage

    Discover what life was like in one of the New River Gorge’s most renowned towns as you join National Park Service rangers and Operation Lifesaver on Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to explore the historic railroad town of Thurmond.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • apt bldg1.jpg Demolition and disposal

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos