Hovering at altitude (Photo courtesy Skytime)
“I’ve never flown a plane. They make me claustrophobic,” said Ed Roski, owner and pilot for Skytime Helicopter Tours. “I also have a fear of heights. But I don’t have either one in a helicopter.” Roski, it turns out, is right at home behind the stick of a helicopter, and equally as comfortable in the Eastern Sierra, which his family has called its second home since 1946, when his grandfather bought a cabin in June Lake.
“I’ve been coming here all my life. I learned how to ski at age 3,” Roski recalled fondly.
He wasn’t, however bit by the flying bug until much later. “I took my first flight in a helicopter in 1997.” After studying at Cal State Long Beach, he got his private and commercial pilot’s license and chose flying a helicopter as a profession. “Flying is not a business you make money in … it’s a business you love,” he observed. And Roski loves helicopters. “I’ve flown just about everything, including some military models.”
His all-time favorite, though, is the Robinson R66, which he chose for Skytime. It’s turbine engine is made by Rolls Royce, which in addition to its automobiles also makes large jet aircraft engines. “It’s the safest aircraft ever,” Roski said. “And it’s perfect for high altitude. Most helicopters can make it up, but they’re not very good in the thin air, which is why you don’t see many up here. This one can get to 14,000 feet and it flies just fine.” He liked it so much, he bought one of the first ones made, number 007. A license to thrill? Roski thinks so. “It’s a dream to fly.”
A room with a view
He’s also really likes the R66’s design, which lends itself to touring. “I’m not sure what the thinking is for most birds. It’s either cargo, or fuel or people, but there’s always a tradeoff.” With the R66, the passenger comes first. In addition to the seat next to the pilot, the back row of three seats is elevated above the cockpit. “The back middle seat actually could be the best one, it’s that good.” And it’s quiet. “We landed 30 feet from a bear … never knew we were there,” he said.
Skytime is based out of the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, but Roski can pick you up from Bishop, Lee Vining, Bridgeport or even Lone Pine, if that’s what you’d prefer. Choose from pre-planned routes, or make up your own. Fly by parts of the Minarets you won’t see from any other vantage point, or get a look at Mono Lake from a gull’s eye view.
“I’ve flown all over the world, including the Himalayas, and no place is more beautiful than here,” he enthused. “Most places have a fixed topography. Here you have deserts, mountains, lakes … it’s truly amazing.”
Call Roski at 760.4.SKYTIME to book a flight, or visit www.skytime.com.