Steve Dinneen takes a look at the capital from high in the sky
BUZZING across the capital in a helicopter used to be the preserve of the very rich and cameramen covering big sporting events. Now anyone can take to the skies and peer down on the City from 1,000ft, thanks to flights from The London Helicopter.
As someone who is ever-so-slightly scared of heights, I approached the experience with a mixture of excitement and terror. Thankfully, when you actually get to the helipad, located on the Thames near Battersea, it doesn’t seem all that scary.
After a brief safety demo, I was fitted with a life vest and pointed in the direction of my steed – a bright yellow contraption about the size of a Nissan Micra.
If you’re not used to helicopter flight, take-off is probably the most exhilarating/terrifying part, especially as the helipad is located right on the river, so there is almost no “taxiing” involved. Instead, the helicopter lifts a few feet from the ground, the nose tilts forward and suddenly the Thames is rolling underneath you at an alarming rate.
The route takes you west from Battersea, loops over Craven Cottage and Stamford Bridge before doubling back on itself. You then take a stunning path over the Thames, soaring over buildings including Battersea Power Station, St Paul’s, the Gherkin and the Shard, before travelling east to the O2 Arena. The only time I felt nervous was when the helicopter turned: it pivots almost 90 degrees, and only a decidedly thin-looking sheet of glass lies between you and a 1,000 feet drop.
The rest of the trip is remarkably serene. Seeing from above the landmarks that you pass underneath every day is a bit like looking at a game of Sim City – everything looks too dainty and calm to be real.
The whole thing takes about 20 minutes, which doesn’t seem long enough (that’s flying at a leisurely pace, too: the whole thing would be over in five minutes flat going at full speed).
The only sticking point is the cost: at £199 a person for 20 minutes, it’s got to be among the most expensive ways of getting around. Not even the train costs that much, and that’s really saying something.
But this is a rare opportunity to see London’s landmarks in a way very few people in your office will have done.
• A flight from Battersea costs from £199 per person, with a minimum booking of two people. Flights from Redhill cost £129 per person. for more information log on to thelondonhelicopter.com.