After tooling through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and enjoying the wonderful fall colors from the ground, I decided to see what they look like from above. To that end, I hopped on board a helicopter for a short tour over the area. And I have to say that you get an entirely different perspective from above; in fact I got more of an eyeful from the air than on the ground. The reds are simply spectacular — it’s a color we really don’t get too much in CA.
Of course, when it comes to a wheelchair, there are some access obstacles involved in a helicopter flight. A few companies in Hawaii and Alaska actually have boarding lifts; however they are expensive and cost prohibitive for most small companies. On the other hand, physical access and attitude goes a long way to making this adventure doable for many wheelers.
Such is the case with Scenic Helicopter Tours in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Although these folks lack the mechanical access, they actually welcome wheelchair-users. They feel it’s a great way for them to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. And I agree.
Although most of the landing spots at Scenic Helicopter Tours are gravel, they do have a paved spot they use for wheelchair-users. Getting out to the big bird is easy, but in order to get in, you do have to be willing to accept some physical assistance. In short you have to be able to climb up at least one step in order to board unassisted. The good news is, if you can’t manage that, the staff at Scenic Helicopter Tours will assist with the boarding process; however they do ask that you have another person with you to do the bulk of the lifting.
OK, so it’s not perfect roll-on access, but remember helicopters aren’t required to provide any type of access, so the folks at Scenic Helicopter Tours are going above and beyond as far as I’m concerned. Will everybody be able to ride in the helicopters? Clearly the answer is no, but they are now more accessible to a wider chunk of the population thanks to the effort of the Scenic Helicopter Tours staff.
So, give them a call to see if they can accommodate you. You never know — you might be surprised at the answer! For more information about their scenic flight, visit www.flyscenic.com.