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My Awesome Tour Pilot was the best...


brettjeepski
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So I was checking out one of the tour operators facebook page in the Grand Canyon (This one) and I couldn't help to notice all the great comments from their guests.

 

MY QUESTION IS:

What do those with experience doing tours have for advice on how to be a great tour pilot?

 

*This is already assuming you are a good stick and safe pilot.*

 

What is your advice on making their experience awesome?

How do you not let the same circles of tour after tour affect your enthusiasm?

 

From the comments on this companies page these tour pilots must be awesome and would love to learn from their example.

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First off I will say its not just "That" company. Look at all the other tour companies and you will see the same....

 

I flew tours for 4 years, 3 in the ditch and one in Glacier NP. Yes tours can become mind numbing. That's the biggest problem. Pilots get bored and start doing stupid things. It happens to EVERYBODY. If somebody tells you they never did something they shouldn't have there a bold face liar! The one thing I learned real fast is most of the people you will fly its there first time. You don't have to do anything to impress them.

 

Another thing to remember is some companies don't allow pilots to narrate the tour, your a bus driver. If you are narrating the tour get a routine of accurate information and a little humor. I found two things that help. First don't talk nonstop just enough to get the information out, let the scenery wow them. Second a little humor goes along way. If your relaxed and can joke a little, again a little the passengers will be relaxed. So basically fly smooth, keep smiling and if you are narrating the tour don't ramble on about useless info!

 

I had a lot of fun flying tours and learned a tonYou will always be close to max GW. On the south rim in the summer DA's were 9-10k. I thought it was windy and bumpy until I flew in Glacier. The ditch was a good wind/turbulence prep for Glacier.

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Some pax cream themselves over the fact that they're airborne, mouths open and the camera forgotten in their hands. You've made them so happy just picking up. Others want a ton of narration, grilling you about this and that and even stumping you on occasion. Answer their questions as best you can, throw in a joke and they're walking off stoked.

If you're with a company/in an area that allows some customisation of your tour, then modifying your flight can go a long way. If I'm flying around a bunch of temples with a load of kids onboard, I'm pretty sure finding a herd of water buffalo goes a long way to making their flight an awesome experience and not just seeing a bunch of rocks piled up.

As you fly more and more, you'll get a feel of your pax and what they want...and that IMHO makes a great tour pilot.

That said, you've either got it or you don't (personality), and some people are just not meant to be tour pilots...

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Flying tours anywhere can be monotonous. You are flying the same routes every day, all day. And if you have a narration, you are listening to the same thing they are day in and day out... in french, chinese, german and every other language under the sun. Most of the tourists in the canyon are foreign and speak very little if any english.

 

In my experience, I was so happy just to have someone who spoke and understood english that I wanted to talk to them. It was almost as much about me having a great tour as them. I would still play the narration for them, but would chime in to point out other interesting tid bits I had come to know. Also, if you can communicate with them, most tourists seem to be just as interested in the helicopter as what ever it is they are taking a tour of. You should be able to talk about that all day! :)

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You have to realize that a significant majority of your pax are experiencing helicopter flight for the first time. Most don't want a thrill ride. People are thankful for a smooth flight more than anything.

 

With that said, their experience is further enhanced by your attitude. If your narration, instructions or responses are monotone or condescending then good luck getting tips or positive comments. If you appear as stoked as they are, they feed off of that. If you can't be genuine then learn how to act.

 

Ask questions of your passengers. Very rarely will they know the others on board so they'll be apprehensive of asking questions, especially over the intercom. This more often than not will evolve into a lively conversation not just with that single passenger, but the whole cabin.

 

Last piece of advice, if you are bored flying tours, learn more about the area you are touring. This kept my interest during flights as I would see something or get asked something I couldn't explain. Once I looked into it, I looked forward to the next time I could point that out. I had a passenger ask how many years had I flown tours and my response was 2 months. He was impressed by the knowledge I had gleaned in such a short time. This translated into a good tip and positive feedback.

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Just to reaffirm...its safety first, bring em all back alive and smiling!

 

Make your last tour as fun as your first. That's a tough one after tour 8 or 9 or 10 (I do lots of short, fast tours....most are 20 minutes each).

 

Realize they will try to talk to you just as ATC gives you a traffic alert or squawk code!

 

It's better when you can spend 5 minutes with the passengers before you crank up. We hot load a lot, and you don't get the same level of interaction....so you have to work a bit harder to open them up.

 

I always introduce myself, I always turn around as they are hot loaded in to greet them...my headset off. I ask why they decided to take a flight today (usually a date or anniversary) and ask about their previous helicopter experience (usually none). Double check seat belts (I had a passenger open the door once in flight) and then were ready to go. All of that takes 60 seconds and makes a difference in how welcomed they feel.

 

Most passengers are at least apprehensive about the flight, many are scared and a few are scared to death. I have a habit of telling them what will be next (hover), move over onto the taxiway, and here we go. They appreciate knowing what to expect. Once straight and level, its no big deal anymore.

 

Be sure to check in on them.....ask them how they are doing. Since your facing forward, you can't see their faces.

 

I find it takes 2-10 minutes to stop the death grips and start looking outside. But be prepared for anything. I had a front seat passenger death grip my left arm and push hard down on the collective once....it was all I could do to keep the collective up. She didn't speak English so more of a challenge there!

 

It all boils down to your attitude. You're expected to be a good stick, fly safe, listen to .02, listen to ATC and listen to your customers.Sometimes I'm also getting the latest ATIS at the same time!

 

Oh yeah, you don't get a bottle of water, or a granola bar or a chance to pee until you need to stop and re-fuel, so a big bladder helps.

 

Some pilots like to do tours, others are all about the time. While I always enjoy flying and adding time to my resume, I do it because I like to give them that first experience. It helps me remember why I started flying to begin with.

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