Black Hills Aerial Adventures, Inc.
Location: Custer, Keystone, and Badlands National Park, South Dakota
There's a reason that parts of the upper Midwest are called "the Badlands," but the moniker has little to do with the raw, brash beauty of the region. Visitors to the area are captivated by the color and texture that drifts based on the whim of sunlight and passing clouds.
While South Dakota typically isn't a top tourist destination, those who do visit are aptly rewarded with iconic views of Mount Rushmore, the vast vistas of rocky Black Hills and the geologically fascinating Badlands that were named by early visitors for their lack of water. With such diverse scenery in one region, how better to explore the beauty of the area than by helicopter?
Black Hills Aerial Adventures, a Regular Operator Member of Helicopter Association International, provides enthusiastic tourists with the opportunity to experience the stunning areas by air.
"We have exclusive authorization to operate our helicopters within the boundaries of Mt. Rushmore National Park and Badlands National Park, says Michael Jacob, owner of Black Hills Aerial Adventures. "We bring our guests eye-to-eye with the presidents on Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial."
The company operates from three locations in South Dakota that provide access to unequaled natural beauty: the Crazy Horse heliport operates from Custer, the Badlands heliport is located near the boundaries of the park in the community of Interior, and the Rushmore heliport operates from Keystone. Each base offers guests a selection of five or six tours that visit one or more of the local tourist sites. Using a Bell 47, Bell 206B, a Robinson R44, and a Robinson R66, Jacob and his team whisk passengers from around the world up and down the mountains, offering panoramic views impossible to experience from roads, parking lots, or trails.
"Our exceptional customer service is reflected in our outstanding reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Facebook," Jacob states.
Jacob believes in giving back to his industry. He started his company in 1992 in part because he couldn't find a job. "I have always had a passion for helicopter flight," he explains. "I started the company because I was a low-time pilot who couldn't get a job due to limited experience."
Today, Jacob's company has 30 employees, many of whom are also low-time pilots looking to build hours and gain experience. "We provide an avenue for lower time pilots to get the stick time they need for career advancement," Jacob continues. "We are partnered with Colorado HeliOps in the development of the Aviation Futures program to provide a career path in the helicopter industry for new pilots."
In addition to tours, Black Hills Aerial Adventures also offers charter flights, pipeline and powerline surveys, game counts, law enforcement support, aerial photography and videography, and work for major motion pictures.
Black Hills Aerial Adventures has a been a member of HAI for 15 years and attends HAI HELI-EXPO yearly. "The association is a very valuable platform to promote the helicopter industry," Jacob finishes. "And we attend the show to network with other professionals and keep up with current trends in the industry."