When I walked into Foundation, The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was playing in the background. Peter and Alex Cohen, brothers and owners of the shop, lounged on chairs as they chatted with two customers who were flipping through their newest shipment. “We started to sell records on Instagram to fund the other stuff we […]
With the I-4 Ultimate construction in full swing — and its jamming up of all the secondary and tertiary routes around Orlando known to locals — everyone sitting in their car has lamented, “There has to be a better way to deal with traffic.”
Enter Mike Blackton and his new company, Chopper, an on-demand helicopter service. Their slogan is “We literally pick you up!”
Mike is a third-generation College Park resident. His grandparents moved down in the 1950s and built three houses in town. The idea for the business was hatched in his house.
Blackton lived in Sweden in 2011 and 2012 and owned a computer software company. He sold the company, moved back to Florida and used the proceeds to start up his first helicopter-based business, Bacon Chopper. Farmers in South Florida hired him to fly helicopters over their farmlands and shoot menacing wild boars that terrorized and damaged the farms.
The business flourished, and Black-ton wanted to expand his offerings: He wanted to transport people.
Blackton is a broker and works with a fleet of pilots with 32 helicopters at the ready. Think Uber in the air. Currently, Chopper can handle 120 flights a day with a passenger capacity of 502 guests.
Each pilot is thoroughly vetted along with the quality of the helicopter; each copter must offer leather seats and air conditioning, for starters.
“Right now there is a two-hour wait time to book a helicopter,” said Blackton. “Our goal is to be on demand.”
So how does this work? First, you must go to Chopper’s website, www.flychopper. com, then you can request your flight. You enter your departure city, arrival location, type of helicopter
you need and the number of passengers. Then you will get a price quote. Here’s an example Blackton shared: To fly from Orlando Executive Airport to restaurant row on Sand Lake Road will cost $750 for five people.
Clearly, this service is not for the masses. “We are event driven,” said Blackton. Think bachelor/bachelorette parties, concerts and festivals, or The Daytona 500. The other market Blackton hopes to tap into is the high-end hourly employee: doctors, lawyers, people who bill hundreds and/or thousands of dollars per hour. Blackton offered the example of a doctor who has business in Tallahassee for the day. He or she could fly up and back in four hours, leaving the resulting time for additional business.
Besides the Orlando Executive Airport, where else can a helicopter land? There are helipads scattered about downtown Orlando. There is one at the Amway Center, and Blackton is working with the City of Orlando to build more. If your yard is at least 45 feet by 45 feet, Blackton says he can land a chopper in it. Orange County requires only the landowner’s per-mission, but the City of Orlando requires a permit, which can take up to two weeks to approve.
The goal is to work the flight bookings through the website for the next several months, then develop an app. With a tap of your phone, a helicopter will be at your disposal in 15 minutes.
To learn more about the business or to book a helicopter, please visit the company website: www.flychopper.com.