Maine Scenic Plane & Helicopter Tours
Have you ever taken an elevator to the top of a tall building, or hiked to the highest point on a mountain just to see what things looked like from up there? Or gazed at a flying bird and wondered how he views the world? Maine’s scenic flights give you the chance to get a look at the state’s scenic wonders from that bird’s perspective. Your adventure could be in vintage bi-plane, a versatile float-plane or in a colorful hot air balloon. Either way, be prepared for the WOW factor.
Maine Fixed Wing Air Tours
If you’ve ever watched the cartoon “Charlie Brown” you’ve probably seen Snoopy, aviator glasses and scarf in place, trying to fly his doghouse and pretending to be a WWII flying ace. On your next vacation to Maine, why not follow Snoopy’s example? Climb aboard a vintage bi-plane and go soaring over the Acadia coast, counting lighthouses as you go. This is an open cockpit plane, so you feel the rush of wind on your face. Other options include enclosed aircraft, such as the Cessna. The high wing allows for a panoramic view of your surroundings.
Flights range from a short 15-minute hop over Bar Harbor to a 45-minute flight exploring the area’s lighthouses and Acadia National Park. Longer hour-plus fights that take-in more of Downeast Maine are also available. Create your own itinerary or let the pilot show you the best the area has to offer.
Gliders have extended wings able to pick-up even the slightest of air currents. A tow plane brings you to altitude then lets go. Ride the wind, just like an eagle. Most flights are out of Bar Harbor Airport and last from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the type of glider. A popular flight is over Acadia National Park, especially in the fall.
Bush and float planes were, and in some cases still are, lifelines to remote lodges and sporting camps in Maine’s interior. Even if you aren’t spending the night in one of these properties, some companies offer air tours. Enjoy the special thrill of taking off and landing on water as you head off to Mount Katahdin or Moosehead Lake. Float plane flights are also available in the Rangeley Lakes Region. Special moose watching tours are offered, as well as fall foliage flights. Most flights in the interior operate from spring until fall and last roughly 20 minutes to a little over an hour.
Maine Helicopter Tours
Helicopters have a sightseeing advantage over fixed wing aircraft. They fly into tight spaces, hover and allow you to get closer to your subject. Take off from the greater Portland area and have your camera ready as you soar over the evergreen islands, the Camden and Rockland harbors or the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. A little further south, heli-tour operators out of Sanford head out over the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, giving you the chance see moose as well as bird colonies on the marshes and off-shore islands. In fall the trees are awash in red and gold, contrasting nicely with the deep blue of the sea. Other departure points include Belfast and Rockland. Flights usually range from a half-hour to an hour, and fly weather permitting.
Hot Air Ballooning in Maine
Man successfully made it off the ground in a hot air balloon. These lighter-than-air craft date back to 1783 when the first untethered model sailed over Paris, France. Passengers ride in a wicker gondola, or basket, underneath the balloon. A propane burner heats the air inside the balloon and you are off. Once at altitude, the flame is turned off and the balloon drifts with the air currents. The open air basket assures you a panoramic view of Maine’s rugged coasts and her tree covered interior.
Most flights take place in early morning or late afternoon because of the more favorable air currents and usually last about an hour. Allow for additional time for a bit of instruction and to watch the inflation of the balloons. After your flight a chase car picks you up and takes your back to the launch site.
Popular launching sites are Portland, along the coast, Auburn and Bangor, both farther inland. One company Maine Balloon Rides (mainehotairballoonrides.com) arranges rides throughout the state. Special romance and champagne packages are offered. You can even get married in the air, surrounded by balloons carrying your wedding party and friends.
Take to the skies in the fall and skim over trees awash in red and gold, vying with the colorful balloon for attention. Every summer Maine celebrates ballooning with the Great Falls Balloon Festival in the Lewiston/Auburn area and the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest in Aroostook County near the Canadian border. These family friendly events offer fun, food, entertainment and a chance to sail among the clouds.