Flight of a Lifetime 5

Fall in love with Kansas City from the air with KC Copters Premier Helicopter Services.

“It’s like flying a magic carpet,” says pilot Johnny Rowlands, his comment delivered to our ears through headphones during some of our staff’s introductory helicopter flight over Johnson County. We may even have been passing 700 feet above our Metcalf offices at the time. Rowlands owns and operates KC Copters, a fleet of six helicopters here in Kansas City. He is known to Kansas Citians for guiding us through traffic each day from his perch above the roadways, covering breaking news and keeping us safe from tornadoes with his helicopter storm chasing.

Helicopter flight is incomparable to anything except experiences only our imaginations can conjure, like the night-time dreams of flying like superman, or picturing a magic carpet ride in books and movies. An airplane is too insulated and large to offer comparison. A hang glider or parachute do not compare because they lack total control by the driver/rider. A helicopter defies gravity, moving to the will of its pilot. It is simultaneously adventurous and romantic. The cockpit is intimate. You sit inside a transparent bubble encompassed by a circumference of windows that evoke a high-tech, science fiction-y feel and provide a panoramic vista of the world around and beneath you. Liftoff and movement through the air is a little on the daring side of transportation. You feel it.

I’m going to hold myself back as a writer here—I don’t want to spoil your own experience, because you must have one. I’ll stop short of describing that phenomenal view, so that you can create your own words for it when you’re up there yourself. But see this as an invitation to fall in love with our beautiful city in a whole new way, from a whole new perspective.

“Fly with someone you know,” is a phrase you’ll hear at KC Copters, because the intimacy and adventure of a helicopter ride require a level of trust in your pilot and the company. KC Copters and Johnny Rowlands merit that trust. Kansas Citians know Rowlands through his decades of award-winning work with local television stations as a pilot and reporter. And he is one of the most experienced helicopter pilots around. In 40 years flying in our area, Rowlands has logged 25,000 incident-free hours. By Malcolm Gladwell’s standard (it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field), that makes Rowlands a master’s master at helicopter piloting. (Thus, KC Copters also runs a training school at their home base.) He is also a certified tour operator, meaning he and the company have committed to the highest standard of safety. Our helicopter ride with Rowlands at the helm was exhilarating because we knew we were in the hands of a highly experienced expert, and his friendly, engaging personality was enjoyable to be with.

“I want to help create a meaningful event our guests will talk about their whole lives,” says Rowlands, who certainly accomplished that for our crew.

“Safety is everything, and we bury it in fun,” he says. “We are caretakers of the space between you and the ground. Our entire mission is to eliminate risk.” They do that by flying the most reliable helicopters, babying the engines so that they are maintained at the highest standards. “What separates us from other operators is how we run our engines and take care of the aircraft.”

They also hire extremely knowledgeable and experienced staff, and cultivate an environment of friendly humor, gentlemanly decorum and consummate hospitality, executed by the flawless teamwork and contagious camaraderie of KC Copters personnel.

“My standard is to treat our guests the way I want to be treated,” Rowlands says. That’s a high standard coming from this professional.

At this point, can you picture yourself buckled in to the cockpit? Imagine the feel of the headphones on your head to cover the swooshing sound of the rotor above? Hear Rowlands familiar voice in your ears…

“Clear. All right, here we go.”