Freedom Helicopters offers new look at familiar Indy

A helicopter from Freedom Helicopters. (Submitted photo)
A helicopter from Freedom Helicopters. (Submitted photo)

By Sam Elliott

Since 2007, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport in Fishers has been home to a unique aviation experience for prospective pilots and fun-seekers eager to try their hand at helicopter flying.

After a 15-year career as an engineer in the aviation and automobile industry, Joe Newkirk decided it was “now or never” to take to the skies himself in 1999. He became a commercial pilot and instructor and opened Freedom Helicopters as a side project in 2003 before going full-time with the company in 2007.

Freedom Helicopters has trained hundreds of pilots through to FAA certifications for private recreational and commercial flying over the years, Newkirk estimated, but its most popular offering is the company’s introductory flight – an experience that takes customers on an aerial tour of Indianapolis and even lets them take the controls.

“That’s kind of our calling card to get people to come in and try it out, whether they’ve had flight experience before or not,” Newkirk said. “We’ve probably done thousands of those introductory flight lessons. The majority of those people, they just wanted to try it and that’s perfectly fine.”

After going over the helicopter basics and safety information, the introductory flight is a 25-minute tour around the city past sights like Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the state fairgrounds, among others.

“Obviously we don’t have the famous scenic things like the Grand Canon or Niagara Falls or mountains, but for people that have always lived here it’s something else to fly over their house or around downtown just to see things from a different perspective,” Newkirk said. “You actually get to fly hands-on your first time up there.”

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