Firm offering aerial view of sylvan lake

Sylvan Lake beachfront is pretty popular during summer weekends.

LR Helicopters pilot Tony Stehr carries passengers aloft at Sylvan Lake last Saturday. The Calgary company will be offering sight-seeing rides around and over the lake throughout the summer.

Sylvan Lake beachfront is pretty popular during summer weekends.

A Calgary helicopter company is hoping airspace above the sand and water will be even more desirable.

LR Helicopters Inc. offered flights over and around the lake last Saturday, and plans to continue the service on weekends until Labour Day.

“We’re just really testing right now the consumer willingness to come out and do it,” said Tom Irwin, a pilot with LR Helicopters.

“If it gets busier, we’re going to be there seven days a week.”

Flying from the grass airstrip near the intersection of Hwy 11 and Secondary Hwy 781, south of Sylvan Lake, the four-seat Robinson R44 Raven II attracted lots of attention and also some customers, said Irwin. These included one man who wanted to take his terminally ill grandfather aloft.

The cost of a flight is $50 per person for a five-to-six-minute aerial tour, and $100 for a 10-minute trip. The shorter stint is long enough to take in the town and beach, said Irwin.

“You’d be surprised at how much you can see.”

Ten minutes provides enough time to cross the lake.

Based out of the Springbank Airport, the helicopter will be available at Sylvan Lake from about 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends, said Irwin, adding that passengers should simply come out to the grass airstrip.

“It’s pretty much first-come, first-served.”

For customers interested in a longer, customized flight, the helicopter can be chartered at a rate of $900 an hour.

“You can go wherever you want, pretty much,” said Irwin.

“If people want to, we’ll go over their farms or over their homes or over their businesses to take pictures, or just look at it from above.”

Climbing aboard a helicopter can be intimidating for first-timers, acknowledged Irwin. But that nervousness usually transforms into enthusiasm.

“There are always smiles when they come out.”

Last Saturday, he said, two female passengers went from being skeptics to enthusiasts.

“We had to pry them out of the machine because they didn’t want to get out.”

LR Helicopters, which started in January, operates three light helicopters. Its services range from geological and forestry work to sight-seeing and tourism.

The decision to fly out of Sylvan Lake came from pilot Tony Stehr, who will be operating the helicopter there.

“He’d always wanted to set up one at Sylvan Lake,” said Irwin. “He just thought it was a good area for tourism — it’s a pretty beautiful area and a lof of people.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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