Papillon Helicopters’ chairman, Elling Halvorsen, is no stranger to experiencing the Grand Canyon via helicopter. Charged with building a pipeline that would deliver water to the Canyon’s South Rim, Halvorsen determined that helicopters would be the ideal transport system for moving massive pieces of pipe down into the Canyon’s treacherous terrain. However, Halvorsen’s project ended up delivering much more than water: guests and workers traveling to the pipeline by helicopter were so struck by the Canyon’s aerial beauty that they began to ask for chartered flights. Finally, Papillon Helicopters (originally Grand Canyon Helicopters) was founded in 1965 to do just that.
Today, Papillon Helicopters flies an estimate of 600,000 passengers on tours of the Grand Canyon each year. They employ highly trained pilots certified by the FAA requirements for sightseeing operators. With years of flying experience under their belts and special training enabling them to fly the entire expanse of the Canyon, Papillon pilots are able to show you natural spectacles unreachable by any other means—from lush forests to spectacular rock formations, and much more. Papillon’s helicopters themselves are cozy, allowing room for six passengers or so plus the pilot; their windows are specially designed to allow you the most expansive views of the incredible vistas the Canyon has to offer.
Features and Amenities (included in most tours):
- Complimentary pick-up and drop-off at Las Vegas hotels (offered only for tours leaving from Las Vegas)
- Helicopters specially designed for sightseeing, complete with panoramic windows, air conditioning, and luxurious first-class seating
- Pre-recorded tour narration available in 12 languages, plus choreographed music
- All tours are operational every day except Christmas
- Papillon pilots are certified not only by the FAA (Federal Aviation Association), but also by TOPS (Tour Operators Program of Safety): with higher standards than the FAA, TOPS certification guarantees the safest professionals available
Notes and Things to Improve:
- Since Papillon flies a lot of tours, it’s a good idea to confirm your booking both well ahead of time and a few days before your departure, just to be safe. Also, be sure to stick together in the often-crowded terminal so that you’re not separated from your group!
- Wait times before and after your helicopter ride can be significant, so it’s a good idea to bring water, snacks, a book, things to keep kids occupied, etc.
- Tours without add-ons (e.g., the Grand Celebration Tour described below) don’t spend much time on the Canyon floor: if this is important to you, you might want to consider a more involved tour (e.g., the Grand Voyager Tour below)
- Please note that passengers exceeding 300lbs in weight must pay an extra fee for additional comfort seating; this fee can vary depending on the tour
- Please note that all passengers must carry government ID
Sample of Popular Tours
As Papillon’s most popular tour, be sure to book well in advance! After a drive from your Las Vegas hotel to the Boulder City terminal, you’ll depart for a 70-minute flight over the Grand Canyon. Sights include the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Guano Point, and Eagle Point. Descend to Papillon’s landing site 4,000 feet below the Canyon’s rim for a luxurious champagne picnic and 30 minutes of exploration time.
The perfect tour for Las Vegas visitors (or natives!) looking for a breathtaking daytrip escape within minimal time: see as many of the Grand Canyon’s most spectacular sites as possible (including Guano Point, Eagle Point, and more) during a 70-minute flight.
Experience all the Grand Canyon has to offer via air, land, and river! After complimentary pickup from your Las Vegas hotel, take a Papillon airplane from the Las Vegas terminal to Boulder City, where you’ll board your helicopter. Descend 4,000 feet into the Canyon for a relaxing pontoon boat cruise into the Canyon’s heart. Take your helicopter back to the Canyon’s West Rim to explore Eagle Point and Guano Point, where you’ll enjoy a light meal and unparalleled photo opportunities.