A new tourist product is set to fly off and around the Rock this May, with the launch of Fonnafly’s helicopter tours of Gibraltar.
The Norwegian helicopter company will have the capacity to take either six or seven paying passengers on the H130 [formally EC130], single engine helicopter for a tour around the rock and back taking 10 to 15 minutes.
While the cost is still to be finalised the company estimates that it will be approximately £150 per person.
The number of passengers depends on the time of year because of bird migration. During the migration seasons another crew member will be on board as a bird watcher, reducing the number of paying passengers to six.
Passengers will arrive at the Wessex lounge at the airport, have a safety briefing and undergo security checks before boarding their flight. It is estimated that the total length of time will be an hour. The package will be primarily aimed at the cruise ship market.
The product will initially be on a booking basis but in the future the company aim to provide a scheduled service. Tours will not take place at night due to the H130 only having a single engine, while two are required for night time flights.
Taking off from the airport the helicopter will fly around the Rock in one direction before turning around and returning this is to ensure that all passengers on both sides of the helicopter get uninterrupted views of the Rock.
The helicopter will be kept in a MoD hanger and due to it taking off on the airport side of Winston Churchill Avenue the runway will not need to be closed for take-off and landing.
The experience will be doors on only and seats will be allocated based on passengers weight and height, this is for safety measures.
The service was launched by the company together with John-Erik Sogn and the Minister for Tourism and Minister with responsibility for commercial aviation Gilbert Licudi, in his offices yesterday. Also at the launch was CEO of Fonnafly, Jon Ove Velure, the Director of Civil Aviation, Chris Purkiss, the Director of Gibraltar International Airport Terence Lopez and the Chief Executive of the Tourist Board Nicky Guerrero.
“I am absolutely delighted to welcome Fonnafly to Gibraltar and am pleased to be able to announce this exciting addition to the Gibraltar tourist product. As a private pilot who has seen the Rock from the air on a number of occasions, I know that the Tours will provide fabulous views for the passengers,” said Mr Licudi.
Mr Sogn, a Norwegian pilot living in Marbella, visited Gibraltar many years ago and thought “I want to share this place with others”.
He started a long process of that dream becoming a reality when he contacted the Gibraltar Government and started to devise the mitigations required to meet the strict environmental conditions imposed by the Department of the Environment in order to be able to operate in Gibraltar. He then partnered up with Fonnafly who started operations in Norway in 2004 and operate a fleet of 13 helicopters.
“I am glad to see that the years of work I have put into this project are finally going to bear fruit. I am delighted that flights will be starting in May and excited at the potential that basing a helicopter in Gibraltar can bring,” said Mr Sogn.
“Besides the Government, I would also like to thank the Ministry of Defence, in particular the Station Commander, for their help in agreeing to provide hangarage for the helicopter during our initial operations.”
Aside from round the rock flights, the company can provide a helicopter taxi service for anyone wishing to go to Malaga airport as an example. In the future, sightseeing flights over the Strait and Morocco may come to fruition.
“Fonnafly have long been interested in the potential of Gibraltar for sightseeing flights. As a busy cruise ship destination, with an incredible Rock formation dominating the location and views over to Africa we are convinced the trips we will be offering will be successful. We look to a long and fruitful relationship with Gibraltar and can’t wait to start services in May,” said Mr Ove Velure.
Pic by Johnny Bugeja