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Tampa helicopter tour gives new perspective on downtown skyline

Ashley is all smiles (we think) aboard the chopper as it nears downtown Tampa.

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Ashley is all smiles (we think) aboard the chopper as it nears downtown Tampa.

The view from the top is a sight to be seen, and seeing it from a helicopter is completely different from an airplane or tall building.

I thought it would be neat to get a new perspective of downtown Tampa. I wanted to take a helicopter tour to get some aerial images and feel what it's like to fly VIP-style.

My budget was definitely a factor. After visiting the St. Pete Visitor's Bureau, I learned that Old City Helicopters was offering a 5- to 10-minute tour of downtown Tampa for $35.

When I arrived at Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands for my flight, I signed my waiver and was then escorted outside to my big blue ride. I was giddy and could not wait for takeoff. I was instructed on how to open and shut the door, and how to inflate my life jacket. Then I was told to put on my headset to be able to hear the pilot. After one more safety inspection, we were cleared for takeoff.

Instead of taking off vertically, we lifted off the ground just a little and then taxied down the runway before we could continue our ascent. The ride was a lot bumpier than I was expecting and the vibrations made me feel a little queasy.

We flew over the water and saw dolphins and stingrays, then headed toward downtown. To me it was breathtaking. It's easy to forget that there is structure and design to the buildings. I instantly felt more appreciation for the architecture thanks to this quickie air tour.

I snapped as many photos as I could in the 10 minutes we were in the air, and before I knew it we were headed back to the airport. When we landed I still felt like I was moving. I am thrilled I got to take this tour, even though it was much shorter than I would have liked. Next time I want to fly over St. Pete.

— My First Time is about Ashley Grant trying new things in Tampa Bay. Got a suggestion she can try? Email her at

Helicopter tours

Where: Old City Helicopters. They fly out of Peter O. Knight Airport, 825 Severn Ave., Tampa. Call (813) 254-1300 or see

Cost: $35 for a 5- to 10-minute flight

Three things I learned:

1. Both daytime and sunset tours are available, and lots of clients have even chosen this as a first date.

2. First thing in the morning, the blades on the helicopter can take up to three minutes to get into full rotation, but between flights it only takes 60 seconds for them to be in full spin mode.

3. I would recommend dining after riding to prevent motion sickness. I didn't realize just how bumpy the ride would be, and I think my full stomach from breakfast made it worse.

Would I do it again? Yes, but I wish it weren't so expensive.

Tampa helicopter tour gives new perspective on downtown skyline 11/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 3:43pm]
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