Helicopter business takes customers to new heights
Cherokee Nation citizen Chuck Dixon, owner of Tulsa County Helicopters, stands next a Robinson R44 helicopter at the Christiansen Jet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dixon uses the helicopter for one of many flight services his business offers. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
An aerial view of the Tulsa Hills community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from a Robinson R44 helicopter operated by Tulsa County Helicopters owner Chuck Dixon. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A helicopter flies over the Tulsa State Fair in October as part of Tulsa County Helicopters’ tours, an attraction for fair visitors. The Tulsa State Fair is one of many events TCH works throughout the year. COURTESY
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Chuck Dixon found a way to turn his passion for vertical flight into a helicopter tour business called Tulsa County Helicopters.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dixon was introduced to flying when his father worked as an accountant for the Cessna Aircraft Company.
“From a young age I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. It started out with airplanes. I thought I wanted to be an airplane pilot. What little boy doesn’t think about being an airplane pilot?” Dixon said.
When he got older, Dixon took flying lessons in a Cessna 150 airplane, but it didn’t give him the satisfaction of flying he wanted. By happenstance, he saw a helicopter land and take off from a convenience store parking lot, and it caught his interest.
He began taking lessons in vertical aviation in 2006 at Silver State Helicopters, which operated at the Tulsa International Airport.
“So I went and signed up there and decided to go to school. I basically took out a $70,000 student loan to go from zero hours in a helicopter all the way to a certified flight instructor,” he said.
From there, he and a pilot friend looked for ways to increase their flight times and potentially create a business.
“We actually started out as two friends that were just renting helicopters and trying to find a way to make some money with it so that we could further our flight career. We were young pilots and we didn’t have a whole lot of flight time. Flight time is very expensive in helicopters, so the best option for us was just try to find a way that paid for it rather than us taking money out our pocket to buy our own flight time,” Dixon said.
They began by renting a helicopter, setting up at different events and offering rides for $35 a person. From there, they sought more and more avenues for business.
Operating Robinson R44 helicopters, they began offering utilitarian tours such as birthday/anniversary/marriage proposal flights, Tulsa metro tours, sweetheart tours for Valentine’s Day, Christmas Light tours. They also work events such as Easter egg drops, balloon festivals, Fourth of July events and the Tulsa State Fair.
Dixon said they also added Federal Aviation Administration 135 flights, known as air charter flights or taking people from airport to airport or other locations.
“Now we can take people out to the Hard Rock Casino and drop them off there, or out to Molly’s Landing in Catoosa and let them eat dinner. We can take them to Kansas City or Dallas or wherever they want to go,” he said.
Aside from tours, Dixon’s business offers helicopter flight instruction and conducts power line and pipeline inspections for companies such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric.
Tulsa County Helicopters operates out of the Christiansen Jet Center where Dixon leases hangar and office space. He said his business is unique in that there was no business model for him to follow. “I’ve owned some other businesses in the past (such as) a car auction and a landscape company, and nothing compares to this as far as the business model for it because a lot of it we’ve had to make up as we go as we saw what would work and what avenues wouldn’t work.”
Dixon said he’s seen great reviews about his business on social media and other websites. He said his primary goal is safety and to give the customer “the best possible aviation experience they’ve ever had in their life.”
“When they get off that helicopter we want to see them smiling,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people that go for a flight have never been on a helicopter before in their life. So you’re the person that gets to introduce them to vertical flight. That was what gave us good feeling about what we did. So that’s why we like to go out and do those things,” he said.
Tulsa County Helicopters is located at 200 Lear Jet Lane. For more information, visit www.tulsaheli.com
, Tulsa County Helicopters on Facebook or call 918-948-3579.