Even the most beautiful of places can look better when viewed from the right angle. And in the case of this region, one of those angles is from above.
“Simcoe and Georgian Bay are gorgeous, but when seen from the air they’re truly breathtaking,” says Jay McMackin.
He should know: as the chief pilot and operations manager of Blade Aviation, Jay has spent countless hours flying over Central Ontario – and, indeed, much of the rest of North America.
“No matter how often you see this region from the air, it never gets old. The patchwork of farmland, the hills of the Escarpment, the glorious lakes… it’s endless.”
Jay and his team regularly share that view with their clients. Some go aloft purely for the pleasure of the flight – sightseeing flights are a popular pastime year-round. Blade Aviation offers themed flights, including trips to Algonquin Park, a fish-and-chips flight to Georgian Bay, sunset flights and more.
Other clients fly because they recognize that a helicopter is the most efficient way to travel over this rural landscape.
“Whether you’re trying to avoid traffic, or just looking to avoid having to drive for hours, a helicopter lets you get to the cottage or back and forth to the city with amazing speed,” Jay says. Depending on wind speed, Toronto to Georgian Bay or Muskoka takes about 40 minutes.
“We can often land right at the end of someone’s dock or on their lawn, or drop them off at their resort, giving them truly door-to-door service.”
Blade Aviation operates a fleet of four helicopters of various sizes and configurations. In addition to pleasure flights, the company offers heavy lifting services – valued by contractors who need to access remote sites – as well as flight services for commercial clients such as Hydro One, the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and many others.
Black Car service
Of course, there are times when a helicopter isn’t the right option, but a limousine is perfect.
That’s why Blade Aviation has launched its Black Car service, a fleet of luxurious Cadillac and Mercedes SUVs driven by professional chauffeurs.
The fleet was inspired by the sight of people disembarking at the airport and struggling to complete the final leg of their journey. “We recognized a need, so decided to help out,” Jay says.
The limousine service isn’t limited just to drives between the airport and the cottage, though. “If you’re in this area without a car – or you just don’t want the hassle of having to drive – our drivers are available,” Jay says. “You can have a glass of wine with dinner or a drink after a round of golf without any worries. Or you can sit back and enjoy the scenery and arrive feeling refreshed.”
Nor is it restricted to local trips. Limousines can be dispatched to any destination, including arranging pickups and drop-offs in the city. “Now that we’re able to start having overseas guests again, a lot of our clients like to have us pick up their visitors when they arrive at the airport, and bring them straight to the cottage or chalet,” says Jay.
“It’s just another level of service.”
Learn to fly
For those who really get the bug for flying, Blade Aviation has added another service: a locally-based flight school.
There was a time when you needed to have a fixed-wing license before you could become a helicopter pilot, but now Transport Canada allows students to focus purely on helicopter flight.
Becoming a licensed helicopter pilot takes 40 hours of ground school and 45 hours of flight time. “We can take an absolute beginner and teach them everything they need to know to safely fly solo,” says Jay. “For many people, that’s a lifelong dream come true!”
For those who would like to dip their toes in the water, Blade Aviation also offers introductory packages at the Muskoka airport. “We offer a three- or four-day course that includes four hours of flying time,” says Jay. “It’s a great way to try it out without committing to the full flight school.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS Dolce Media Group