Buffalo is getting its wings thanks to helicopter tour operator Mike Campbell. After running successful heli-tours out of NYC and Miami for years, Campbell feels that the time is now for Buffalo to take off, quite literally. At the moment Campbell is waiting for approval to set up his first helicopter tour operation at the Outer Harbor, at the site of the former Pier Restaurant. He says that he could be up and operation as soon as this coming weekend.
Once up and running, Fly Buffalo will feature two flight packages – one that encompasses Buffalo ($70 to $100), and one that canvasses Niagara Falls and Buffalo (around $120). “I just hired a full time pilot, and have another pilot on the way,” Campbell told me. “We will start off running tours Thursday through Sunday. I am still running heli-tour companies out of NYC and Miami – in NYC I book 40,000 tourists a year. I am hoping to get between 10,000 and 15000 people a year in Buffalo to start.”
Campbell says that flying over Buffalo is sensational, with all of the architecture. His route will take tourists over the Erie Basin Marina, to Delaware Park, over to the Central Terminal, and then back over Silo City before returning to the helipad. The Niagara Falls tour covers all of that, plus an up close look at the falls from overhead. He calls the flights “overwhelming” due to all of the impressive sights along the way.
Campbell, who hails from Buffalo’s lower West Side, says that he got the flying bug when he saw his uncle enter into the world of aviation. His uncle was flying all over the world, and loving life. Until now, Buffalo hasn’t been ready for this type of tourism play, but the times are changing rapidly. In fact, Campbell says that he is currently in discussions with local developers about installing heliports into their project designs. He feels that now that this city is growing, business types are going to want to come and go from various projects via helicopter, instead of dealing with the airport. If a client wants to fly into or out of Buffalo, it’s a breeze to do so by copter.
Campbell is also giving back to Buffalo. He has applied to start a 141 Flight School so that military personnel can learn to fly in Buffalo instead of leaving the city. The next nearest school is 300 miles away. Now people will be able to learn to fly here in Buffalo, which is important for any growing city. “Aviation has been good to me,” Campbell mentioned. “Now I want to make sure that Buffalo is even more progressive (and fun).”
Each month, Campbell will donate partial sales proceeds from the Buffalo business to local charities.