Taking a bird’s eye view of this year’s TT festival

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HELICOPTERS are a regular sight in Manx skies during TT fortnight.

Some are here to put in the hard yards – like the ones we watch chasing bikes around the Mountain Course to help produce the footage for ITV4’s outstanding race coverage.

TRAVEL IN STYLE: Elite Helicopters' Bell 206 LongRanger

TRAVEL IN STYLE: Elite Helicopters' Bell 206 LongRanger

But others are here simply to provide pleasure.

Elite Helicopters is a firm based in Chichester, West Sussex, but has currently set up camp in a field next to Robinson’s on Cooil Road, Braddan, over the road from B&Q.

They are here, of course, to serve the needs of our thousands of visitors, taking them on trips around famous TT landmarks and to feed the adrenalin habit.

But the locals are not being left out, with more and more taking the opportunity to indulge in a thrilling airborne trip to enjoy the island’s spectacular scenery at jaw-dropping angles.

SPECTACULAR: Douglas and Onchan makes an awesome sight on a clear day

SPECTACULAR: Douglas and Onchan makes an awesome sight on a clear day

Along with Isle of Man Newspapers digital producer Gary Myers, who was shooting video footage for iomtoday.co.im, I was invited to visit Elite on Wednesday by the firm’s commercial manager Bill Leach.

He greeted us in the field on our arrival, quickly introducing us to pilot Stephen Brady while explaining how the business relies primarily on corporate bookings at major sporting events – a flying taxi service, if you like – as well as providing pilot training, often to military personnel aiming to use their skills in the wider world on leaving the services.

The helicopter we were to take a trip in was a seven-seat Bell 206 LongRanger – pilot and passenger up front, plus five in the back.

And following a safety briefing, conducted standing in the field just as the sun started to break the cloud cover in timely fashion, we boarded the aircraft.

The choice of flights available during TT include five, 15 and 30 minutes, and can be booked through Regency Travel, with whom Elite work closely during their time on Manx shores.

Ours was the 15 minute version – and after excitedly placing headphones with in-built microphone over our heads, we were ready for the off.

The headphones, incidentally, weren’t simply for the obvious photo opportunity as Stephen talked us through lift-off, hover and told us where we were heading and what to expect at every stage.

The journey itself took us up and over the incinerator on Richmond Hill and out towards Douglas Head.

This was where the fun really began as Stephen assessed everyone’s immediate reaction to helicopter flight and talked us through a banked turn to the left across the bay.

The exhilaration had us all grinning excitedly at the same time as our pilot informed us we were levelling out at 1,800 feet while sweeping across the seafront at a graceful 120mph.

High above wispy cloud, we were able to see the TT Grandstand buzzing with activity before heading inland to Creg-ny-Baa and over Kate’s Cottage.

Turning back towards Onchan, Stephen prepared us all for a dive – a manoeuvre which produced a similar feeling to being on a roller coaster, only at almost 2,000ft – and then we were heading south again, picking out the trio of helicopter landing pads at Noble’s Hospital as well as the Bowl and NSC sports pitches, before landing back at the Cooil Road base.

It’s an experience I’m sure I’ll never forget, and would recommend to anyone looking to do something a little bit different this TT.

Elite Helicopters can be contacted by ringing 01243 530165 or by getting in touch with Regency Travel via the iomttbreaks.com website.

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