Helicopter business taking off again after scant trade last year

IN these recessionary times, the helicopter business has been hit hard.

Some experts have estimated that work has probably halved since 2008. “Last year was very quiet,” says Micheál O’Donovan. “However, this year, thankfully, there has been a slight improvement.”

What was it like at the peak of the boom in the flying game, before the global recession? “Along with corporate work, golf, of course, was a major part of the flying business and still is, to a degree. I would often have been flying a group of golfers wanting to play in as many golf courses as they could. And, in Ireland, with the road network that we have, the helicopter was the obvious choice to get from one course to the next.

“Basing themselves in Dromoland or Adare or Killarney, the plan would be to play six courses over three days and be gone again,” O’Donovan says.

These were mostly wealthy American tourists, who would have kept Micheál busy from the end of April to the middle of September. One aspect of the flight that always impressed them was the view of the Irish countryside as they passed over it.

“They think the scenery is just incredible, the greenness, particularly. If you are coming from Killarney and you’re going across to the Old Head of Kinsale, you start out with the beautiful lakes of Killarney, you cross the mountains and then you come into the lovely, rolling hills of west Cork, then onto the beauty of the beaches of Garrettstown and then to the peninsula. In half an hour of flying, they see a great deal of what Ireland has to offer,” he says.

During the boom, O’Donovan often worked with auctioneering firms, as they photographed properties for their sales books. “A lot of this was done for farm properties with development potential, usually at the edge of large towns or cities. With a helicopter, unlike a plane, you can hover still in the air and face any direction, so it can be the perfect platform to view a particular sight,” he says.

Today, business may be quieter, but there is enough work to keep the Newcestown man busy. “Weddings are still popular, bringing people to the church, or from the church to the hotel. Sight-seeing trips, also; someone might ring up out of the blue and book a sightseeing tour of Cork or Kerry, or a tour of the Galtees,” he says.

O’Donovan recently flew a 70-year-old woman around west Cork for an hour. She had never flown before, and the flight had been a birthday gift from her family.

And, finally, for any farmer looking for a perfect place to pop the question, O’Donovan has the answer. A prospective groom booked a flight from and requested that O’Donovan fly him and his intended over a particular field. And there, hovering at 800 feet, she looked down onto a green field to see written, with scaffolding planks, the words she longed to see, “Will you marry me.” Needless to say, that story had a happy ending.


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