During 1976, Heli Air Monaco’s first year of operation, around 750 people travelled in its two-seat Enstrom F28 helicopter (the only one at the time) on the seven-minute journey from the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport to the principality’s helipad in the Fontvieille quarter, its most popular route.
The company was founded by two brothers, both Monaco citizens. Patrick Crovetto was working as a private helicopter pilot in the US in the early 1970s, while sibling Jacques completed a business studies degree at the University of Lausanne. Returning home, they set up a helicopter service that has since grown to carry more than 100,000 passengers a year, with 50 scheduled flights a day in increasingly sophisticated helicopters.
The airline’s story has been one of steady continual growth over the last four decades, in a region that has seen a 40 per cent drop in tourism numbers since the economic crash. Expanding on the obvious leisure potential of the route, Heli Air has recently begun themed flight itineraries, one of the most popular of which is a “Heli Gastronomy” experience. It includes a flight to one of many high-end restaurants in the area, such as Chez Bruno in Lorgues, La Bastide de Moustiers and the Chateau St Martin & Spa in Vence.
In 2004, Heli Air became the first company in Europe to use the EC 130 B4 Ecureuil Super. It has individual seats and a specialised fenestron tail rotor, which keeps noise to an absolute minimum for passengers. The pride of the fleet is the EC 155 B1, acquired in 2007 and reserved exclusively for private use, with pilots able to fly customers as far as Geneva, Porto Cervo and Rome, the latter in less than two hours. The all-white interior of the VIP version has a style more redolent of a private jet than a helicopter.
A popular innovation is the “Check and Fly” policy. Implemented last year, it means all passengers can check their bag through to their final destination without having to recollect in Nice. There’s also a free transfer service from all flights landing in Monaco to any hotel or residence in the principality.
Fleet: 6 single-engine Squirrels (five-seaters); 2 twin-engine Squirrels (five-seaters); 2 single-engine EC130 B4s (six-seaters); 1 twin-engine Dauphin (eight-seater).
Number of employees: 120
Men’s uniform: White shirt paired with grey trousers and jacket in summer; navy in winter.
Women’s uniform: White shirt paired with grey skirt (or trousers) and jacket in summer; navy in winter.
Cabin design: All standard helicopters in the fleet can be reconfigured to a VIP design, which features just two black-leather executive chairs.