Lisbon visitors often hear this before they see it. When it does eventually fly into view, the helicopter whirs lazily in the sky, slowly traversing land and sea to follow a flight path that takes in some of the city’s best-known landmarks.
Hovering above the Portuguese capital like a patrolling wasp, this is Lisbon Helicopters on the wing, a new flightseeing company that allows you to discover the city from a bird’s-eye point of view.
Currently the only Lisbon tour operator offering a sightseeing experience from the air, Lisbon Helicopters is based in Algés, a town located 10 kilometers west of the city center and easily reached by bus or train. The heliport is sited next to the Torre VTS, the landmark maritime traffic control building that leans over the river as if about to stride across the water.
Flightseeing with Lisbon Helicopters takes in landmarks like the impressive Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge — Photo courtesy of Lisbon Helicopters
From here, passengers are whisked away on a veritable flight of fancy. Several different tour options are available, each one designed to showcase a particular aspect of Portugal’s vibrant capital.
Viewed from above, these splendid visitor attractions appear even more incredible in their beauty. The flight also affords a different perspective over the Discoveries Monument and a mesmerizing outlook across the impressive Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.
The Imperial tour is arguably the most popular excursion because the whirly-bird flies over Belém as well as Lisbon’s Baixa, the historic downtown district that boasts Praça do Comércio and Castelo de São Jorge, among other cherished must-see monuments and exciting places to see.
Lisbon Helicopters’ fleet of Robinson R44 aircraft is made of light machines renowned for their comfort and reliability. Inside one, the enclosed cabin is fitted with two rows of side-by-side seating for a pilot and three passengers. Large windows accentuate the views.
The Robinson’s 400-kilometer range is such that Lisbon Helicopters can extend its flightseeing to destinations beyond the city limits to places like the resort towns of Estoril and Cascais; verdant Sintra with its Moorish castle and royal palaces; the long, golden beaches at Costa da Caparica; and the spectacular Cabo da Roca, continental Europe’s most westerly point.
To accommodate larger groups, the helicopter fleet includes roomy AS350s. These are stationed at Cascais Aerodrome.
“These out-of-the-box programs are ideal for special occasions, anniversaries or corporate outings,” says Lisbon Helicopters' Francisco Sá Nogueira, who founded the company with fellow flightseeing enthusiasts Ruben Bensimon and João Maria Bravo.
The duration of the standard flights offered by Lisbon Helicopters numbers from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. And special arrangements can be made to take passengers anywhere they want within a 60-minute time frame.
“We can take clients as far as the Alentejo and even the Algarve, and we are looking at developing the product by, for example, combining sightseeing flights with wine-tasting events.”
Meanwhile, everybody is up in the air about this new attraction, which is quickly adding a new dimension to the Lisbon tourism experience and providing a novel spin on the idea of in-flight entertainment.