What You Should Know Before Flightseeing Alaska
Written by Chad Emswiller,
in Section First Time Visitors
Over 900,000 wild caribou roam in vast herds across Alaska’s tundra landscape. Catch a birds-eye glimpse of these and much more with helicopter rides in Alaska.
Helicopter rides in Alaska can come as an oddly humbling experience. Soaring through the sky, above icy glaciers and wooded slopes, sometimes hundreds of miles away from the closest human settlement—it’s a long, exhilarating moment that lucky adventurers won’t easily forget.
In Alaska, exploring the air above the landscape isn’t an uncommon experience, since approximately one in every 40 Alaskan residents has an aircraft license. But that doesn’t detract from the breathtaking experience that Anchorage helicopter glacier tours can be.
Flying in Alaska is a way of life for many. With fewer than 10,000 miles of roadways, air taxis are as common in Alaska as cabs in Chicago or water taxis in Venice.
Limited roads mean there isn’t as much to see from the ground. Going on flight tours, or flightseeing offers new, incredible perspectives on this beautiful state.
If you’re new to helicopter tours, the prospect of going on one will probably inspire some questions, and maybe some (completely understandable) feelings of nervousness. The following are some things you should think about as you prepare to go on helicopter rides in Alaska.
Choosing the Right Helicopter
Whenever you book a helicopter tour, be sure and find out which direction the seats face. If the seats in the helicopter all face forward, you’ll enjoy the best views of the Alaskan landscape.
Having all front-facing seats also make it easier for your group to enjoy one another’s company and interact with the experience together.
Additionally, if anyone in your group sometimes suffers from motion sickness, being in a front-facing seat is considerably less intense than facing backward.
Dressing for the Ride
When you choose an outfit for flightseeing, your personal safety should be your first priority. Looking good for the group photo is one thing, but it’s way more important that you’re comfortable and safe, before, during, and after the flight.
Hats, scarves, and any loose accessories should not be taken with you onto the helicopter ride, as these can blow away, possibly causing a dangerous distraction to passengers and crew. You can leave such items in your car, or in a storage locker, during your flight.
If your hair is long, be sure and pull it back in a braid, bun, or ponytail so it isn’t flying in your face during the tour. You’ll also want to wear shoes that are flat and closed-toed.
Understanding Seating Arrangements
While everyone wants the seat with the best view, or to sit close to their family or significant other, helicopter passengers have to board and be seated in a specific arrangement depending on their weight, in order to keep the helicopter safely balanced.
While the touring company employees will do their best to honor every passenger’s seating preferences, it’s important to cooperate when they instruct you to take one seat or another. Even if you don’t end up sitting right next to your partner, you’ll be close enough together to interact and enjoy the flight together.
Getting the Perfect Snapshot
Cameras are usually allowed onboard for most helicopter tours. To help prevent window glare from muddying up otherwise decent photos, you can dress in darker colors, as these are less likely to reflect sunlight back against the glass.
Additionally, you can try to plan your trip to occur during the best time of day for picture-taking—usually, mid-morning to mid-afternoon, as the sun won’t be shining its strongest rays directly at the windows during this time.
Going With the Flow
During helicopter rides in Alaska, everything about the flight is carefully planned and meticulously executed by the flight staff, so you get to enjoy a safe and exciting, yet strangely relaxing, experience.
You’ll probably watch safety videos before flying or get safety instruction by a staff member, who will teach you how to approach the aircraft safely and board correctly. The flight crew will guide you to your seat, check your seat belt, and make sure you’re completely secure, all before taking off.
Mild nervousness is to be expected, but you can overcome this by paying attention to the simple training video or instruction and then calmly and carefully cooperating with the flight staff as you board.