First time for everything: Flying in a helicopter
Ben Ross is Head of Travel at The Independent. He has worked for the paper for over a decade, and began reporting on travel in 2001. Before joining the travel desk full time, he ran The Independent's special projects department. He started his journalistic career at the BBC working for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Wednesday 26 October 2011
"Do you want to take any photographs while we're up in the air?" asks Jonathan, as we walk towards his helicopter. "I'll leave the door off, then, so you can get a better view."
Great. My first time in a helicopter will also be my first time in a helicopter without a door.
Jonathan Greenfall is chief pilot for Sloane Helicopters, based at the tiny Aeródromo de Son Bonet, near Palma de Mallorca. Until 1959 it was Mallorca's main airport. Now it's used by light aircraft pilots for training and by helicopter pilots to scare journalists.
The rotor blades are soon spinning and it's all rather loud, so we put our headphones on and everything goes Top Gun – or whatever the helicopter equivalent is.
"The first thing you'll notice," crackles Jonathan, as we take to the blustery skies, "is that everyone in Mallorca has a pool, but no one ever swims in them." This is true: azure squares mark each property, but the waters remain undisturbed. The same can't be said for my sense of security... I check the seatbelt obsessively.
But it's great fun: like a rollercoaster. Jonathan takes me for a recce of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains and we make a rock-star landing next to the stylish Es Ratxo hotel. Just a coffee, please.
Then it's back to base, flying over tiny Esporlas – "Annie Lennox lives there," says Jonathan – and chic Son Vida. Finally, we hover over a prison: "See, even the convicts have got a pool!" I look down. No one's swimming in it.
Sloane Helicopters (00 34 971 79 41 32; sloanemallorca.com). From €299 (for three passengers) for 15 minutes.
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