Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Let's Party! This month - flying high over London


By our features editor, Sally Smith


June 2011 

Let's party in later life article series...

This series looks at some of the more unusual ideas to help you celebrate with style and panache – at affordable price levels, of course!

To see the full list of articles see the main Celebrating in Later Life page

This month we look at an unusual celebration idea – a low level helicopter ride over central London.


We love this idea for a celebration – a low level helicopter flight over London peering down onto all the sites from the gardens of Buckingham Palace to the unexpected open spaces in the middle of the Houses of Parliament.

Flying high over London

The idea came from a friend and when we looked into it, we found you could either book just one seat for a birthday person; two seats for an anniversary special – or book an entire helicopter for a small group to celebrate together. This really does give partying a new high!!!

For my brother-in-law’s 70th birthday I decided to splash out and book the entire helicopter – after all why shouldn’t we have a bit of fun too! Several companies offer this service but after some research we chose Heli Air, a specialist helicopter company which flies many celebrities and businessman to specific destinations or events such as Silverstone and Ascot.

01789 470476 or 01895 835899

But they also run a special London from the Air programme, offering 40 minutes or so of low level flight over central London, and that sounded perfect.

Flying high over LondonWe were greeted at their Denham base, just west of the M25, by our pilot who gave us a fascinating briefing about where we would be flying and what to expect. It depended on which way the planes from Heathrow were taking off and when I heard they were taking off in an easterly direction that day because of the winds, I feared we might have our flying restricted - not so at all. Instead we would simply loop round and come into London from the Canary Wharf end instead of going the other way.

We took off and were all given headphones and a microphone so we could speak clearly to each other, although the noise from the rotors was less intrusive than we expected. The big glass sides to the helicopter gave everyone totally unrestricted vision and a slow low level pass over the Olympic site was just the beginning of a truly fascinating experience. The good thing about a helicopter is that it doesn’t have to whiz through the air like a fixed wing plane, so we could slowly move over all the main central London sites. St Paul’s looked magnificent from just 800 feet above the wonderful dome, St Katherine’s Dock was far better laid out that one would think on a busy evening on the ground there; the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye – all the major landmarks looked so entirely different from the air, it was fascinating.

Flying high over London We thought the flight would flash past but it lasted far longer than we expected, and by the time we arrived back at Denham airfield, we felt we had been on a major trip. It had offered a completely new view of London and had been tremendously enjoyable, giving us something to talk about – and hundreds of photographs to look at! - for many months to come.

Heli Air has a large range of helicopters which can take up to six passengers. A Eurocopter EC120 for instance, which takes four passengers, can cost £160 a person, not out of reach for a really special occasion. They are also willing to tailor flights to exactly your requirements and budget.

Of course if you don’t live within reach of London, you will have to include travel to the capital and possibly an overnight stay. But some of these very special occasions only come once in our lives, and if you are going to splash out, what fun to do something slightly unusual and definitely very very memorable.

Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti