Wednesday, 9 February 2022
Today we’d like to introduce you to John Power.
Hi John, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My first introduction to working in the helicopter sightseeing industry commenced in 2001 in the capacity of Vice President of Sales & Marketing for an FAA-approved Part 135 sightseeing operator. Coming from Manchester, England to the United States in 1994, the sightseeing industry was fascinating and highly rewarding.
Let’s be honest, selling helicopter tours over Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Hawaii was a dream come true. I remember the impact on travel from 9-11 and the recovery time to encourage International Tourists back to Las Vegas, The internet was in its infancy and as a sightseeing provider, we relied heavily on working with domestic and international Tour Operators and Resellers. Time passed quickly and after 11 years, It was time to take the plunge into building my own helicopter sightseeing company. The one thing I learned very quickly was that having the right people in place at the right seat who had experience in the helicopter industry was critical. I had joined forces with a Canadian with over 30 years of helicopter maintenance and aircraft parts purchasing.
This alliance proved to be the foundation of our success. After seven months of rebuilding an AS350B2 helicopter and proactively marketing our helicopters tours, we started July 2012 with one Airbus helicopter. I still remember the first family we flew from Boulder City to the Grand Canyon. I recall that I wore several hats that the first year including accounting, reservations, aircraft washer, loader, and fueler. We grew from one aircraft to five aircraft over the next five years shifting from 10 employees to 50 employees. During this time, we opened up flight operations from North las Vegas Airport and commenced flying Las Vegas night strip helicopter tours. Then came the Covid shut-down.
We had always held our breaths after 9-11, especially being closed for four days of flight operations. So, when you are closed for 84 days during Covid, you start to rethink how you are going to keep everything afloat. I recall that the worst-case scenario was that we would disassemble the aircraft and simply sell the parts. We actually built a website just in case. The light began shining through the tunnel in June 2020, when we began to re-open sightseeing operations. Fortunately, our company was only 20% reliant on International visitation. There was a post-Covid serge in demand for tour experiences. With the Nation flush with giveaway cash, we rolled the dice and grew stronger every day. 2020 ended up much better than we had anticipated. At the end of the year, there were only 3 out of 6 helicopters operators flying sightseeing tours to the Grand Canyon.
This reduction in aircraft capacity in the Las Vegas Valley from 120 helicopters to 35 helicopters, created opportunities and in January 2021, we moved all our locations to McCarran Airport to a custom heliport specifically designed for helicopter tours. In February that year, we met with the Owner of Zion Helicopters (Paul Budge) and came up with a merger plan to operate helicopters sightseeing tours from their Virgin River’s Edge Heliport facility. This was a state-of-the-art building with off-the-grid sustainable green energy. Because of Covid, travelers were eager to experience the stunning panoramic views of Zion National Park.
We saw private helicopter charters boom and an influx of happy customers. Summer 2021 was hotter than normal. The pace slowed in July & August, however, after the delta variant had toned down, business was back on a roll and continued through the end of November. 2021 was the biggest challenge of my career, but we made huge steps increasing our helicopter fleet to 8 aircraft and over 75 Employees.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
One million dollars of tour refunds between March and June 2020. Ensuring that we locate aircraft parts due to the supply chain issues post covid. On March 17th, 2020, we released 44 highly trained Employees due to the covid shut-down. It took us 22 months to regain that skill level.
Increases in aircraft insurance premiums due to the Boeing Max Jet worldwide claims.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Being selected by Google to represent Nevada at the first Google Small Business Conference. Becoming a U.S. Citizen. Deliver what we promise on time and to specification. We deliver first-class helicopter sightseeing experiences and affordable prices. We are not the largest helicopter company, however, we strive to be the best.
Married with three incredible children aged; 16, 18, and 21 years who also work in the family business. Worked with an airline (Airtours International) in 1994 to bring the first wide-bodied non-stop jet charter from Manchester, England to Las Vegas, Nevada. Worked in the travel & tourism industry for over 35 years.
General Manager & Co-Owner of the business.
We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
I was a Mountain Ski Guide in France and ran a windsurfing school in Greece for five years from the age of 20 to 25.
Created On 10 Feb 2022
Follow us on Social and Subscribe to Keep Up with the Latest News
Flights operated by 5 Star Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours, LLC dba: Zion Helicopter Tours, FAA Part 135 Certificate NO. 5S9A132O. Location: Rivers Edge Facility: 3050 East UT-9, Virgin UT 84779