Bird’s eye views of Chatsworth estate and the Peak District are offered throughout the summer months – thanks to a growing helicopter firm.
The current team took over Central Helicopters in 2008 – and have established a strong reputation for their pleasure flights.
Taking off from a field at Owler Bar on the edge of the Sheffield, the firm offers a choice of flights over the Peak District, Chatsworth estate and Derwent reservoir, following in the smoke trails of the famous 617 Dambusters squadron, who trained over the Derbyshire dams before their daring raids in Germany in World War Two.
“There is nothing quite like the thrill of helicopter flight,” says Central’s Daniel Briggs.
“As you lift into the hover and the pilot applies power, you will feel the ground rishing beneath you as you accelerate and rise up to 1,500 feet.”
Captain David Marsland is one of Central’s pilots.
It was a hobby that got out of hand, but it’s quite a nice job.Ian Briggs, Central Helicopter owner
The 39-year-old, who has been flying for 14 years, puts the popularity of helicopter flights down to the views and the freedom.
He says: “A lot of people have never experienced helicopter flight. There used to looking out a little porthole window out of a plane.
“In helicopters, you can see everything all the time. That appeals to people, plus the freedom of it, you can take off and land anywhere.”
The firm’s success was sparked by a father’s day present a few years back.
Ian Briggs, owner, said: “It was a hobby that got out of hand, but it’s quite a nice job.”
Marilyn Briggs, Central finance director, says: “The family bought Ian, my husband, a flying lesson for father’s day.
“He went on it and thought it was brilliant.
“He decided to train for his private pilot’s licence. He did all that through Central Helicopters and we saw the potential in the company.”
The couple – already an established business team having run their own printing firm since 1989 – approached Central, then predominantly a flying school, with a view to buying.
Marilyn said: “We approached the owners and asked them if they would be interested in selling. They decided to sell it and we took over in 2007.”
And the family business was complete when son Daniel, who was working for the printing firm, expressed in interest in the new business – he is now Central’s operations director.
Marilyn says: “When we bought the helicopter company, he fancied getting involved. It’s a bit more exciting than printing.”
And the family have built up the firm from then, launching pleasure flights, including over the Peak District, and charter operations.
Last year they moved to their own dedicated helipad near Nottingham, from Ollerton airfield, near Mansfield, offering refuelling, conference and catering facilities.
They have now launched pleasure flights over Skegness, but it is their flights over Chatsworth and the Peak District which are among the most popular pleasure flights.
Ian Briggs, Central owner and founder, says: “We have been doing them for about seven years from Owler Bar.
“There are shorter flights, we go around Chatsworth, and there is a 30-minute flight, up the dams and over Chatsworth.”
Marilyn says: “We started them around 2009.
“We had contact with one of the gift experience companies and they were having trrouble with the helicopter firm they were dealing with and having disappointed passengers.
“We were approached by them to take over the sites and that’s what we did.
“We offer a six-mile air experience, a 15-mile air experience and then we do a 15-minute Peak District and Chatsworth tour and a 30-minute Dambusters flight over the dams and you also get to see Chatsworth as well.
“The dam flights are very popular, but the shorter flights are quite popular too – they’re in most people’s price range.
“For £39 for one persion, it gives them the opportunity to experience a flight in a helicopter.”
The firm also offers flights over the city of Nottingham – and they have not ruled out flights over Sheffield in future.
Marilyn says: “We do a Nottingham city tour. It takes you over the city and the football stadia and that’s quite popular, especially with sports fans.
“We are looking for new sites going forward, but we have to be selective about it. We need to have the uptake to make it viable.”
Flying dates from Owler Bar this summer are plus Sundays May 31, July 26 and September 13, and Saturdays June 27, July 4, August 22 and October 10, For details, visit www.centralhelicopters.com
What’s on offer
Six-mile air experience - £39
Fifteen-mile air experience - £69
Peak District/Chatsworth tour – £99
Dambuster & Chatsworth tour, with free lunch – £169