This is How We Do Vegas From The Sky!

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How time flies in Vegas. A flyover Las Vegas Strip as well as downtown from 2016

Where does time go? This post was originally made seven years ago! In April 2016. The video itself was actually shot the previous December.

Our photographer friend Tom Donoghue (#photomanlv) invited my wife (Miss Debbie) and me to go with him for a once-in-a-lifetime photo adventure. This was to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for us. For Tom, He does this as a regular gig!

He needed to get some fresh photos of the Thomas & Mack Center from above for the upcoming National Finals Rodeo 2020.  What made this helicopter flight so special?  The doors had to be open to get the images Tom needed for the rodeo!

An Offer We Could Not Refuse! 

How often do you get to fly in a helicopter with the doors open? Now you see why this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for us?  There was no way I was going to say “No” to this offer. Would you?

The one thing that made it all feel right was that Tom uses Maverick Helicopters for his assignments like this.  They are the only helicopter company in Las Vegas that I would trust with my life and that of my wife.

I have worked with others in Las Vegas and for a closed-door, 10-minute Strip tour. Ok, if I have to for my client. I can do that.  But for an assignment like this? Oh, Hell No!  It’s only Maverick Helicopters, or I stay home!

After getting all the safety harnesses and straps configured, we were off. Tom Donoghue was behind the pilot. I was in front, on the passenger side, and my wife – who could not wipe that smile off her face for two weeks afterward, was behind me. The guy you see in the middle was Maverick’s marketing person. I never did catch his name.

Debbie was so ready for this, like a kid on Christmas morning… Me? Not so much.  However, any chance to see Las Vegas from above, I will always take it. Her door was open; mine was not!

fly over Sheldon Adelson hanger and area 51 jets
Sheldon Adelson Hanger and the Area 51 jets

Taking off from Maverick, we pass over Sheldon Adelson’s hanger. I always loved to see his two short-body 747s and the Area 51 jets. Always a treat to see.  (Sheldon Adelson was the Sands Corp. CEO and the Venetian and the Palazzo owners.)

The one thing that always amazes me when I see the airport from above is the size of this place.  What a massive operation. Saying it’s huge is an understatement!

As we buzzed around the Thomas and Mack (T&M) facility, we often had to fly across Las Vegas International Airport’s flight path for Tom to get the needed photos. That meant stopping in midair as if we were at a stop light!

Listening to the control tower do their thing to give us the “ok” to pass through was fun.  Seeing the organized chaos on the runways while listening to the air traffic controllers and the other pilots was fascinating.

The goal for our flight was to focus on the T&M and to get the right shots, you have to circle around. Since we need to turn around, why not fly over the Strip?

And since you are doing that, you need to be fair and do a couple of passes over downtown to see all that new construction there.  This is when you get to see that Vegas sits in a large valley surrounded by beautiful mountains all around it.

Vegas Never Stops

Looking at this video today, 2023, it was fun to see all the changes in the last seven years. The stadium, Resorts World, Circa Resorts.  All in some form of near completion. Today, they are completed and in full operation.

In the past, Debbie and I have done the Las Vegas Strip Night Flight and enjoyed seeing the strip in all its neon and LED glory.  But this?  Wow, this gives you another look at life in Vegas.  The shadows of the tall buildings, the expanse of the valley, and the beauty surrounding us.  Both natural and manmade.  If you ever get jaded about Las Vegas, look at it from the sky; it may change your feelings!

(Take the Night Flight over Las Vegas. You’ll love it! )

Now, flying with the doors off? That’s a new experience and probably beats any thrill ride I have ever been on.   Let me change that. it was the funniest thrill ride I have ever been on!

A seasoned pilot, an experienced photographer who does this regularly, and a budding landscape photographer hyped up on adrenalin were doing fine.  This was an adventure of a lifetime.

The cameras were going off pretty fast and furious behind me.  Matt, our amazing pilot, was making it look effortless as he coordinated between what Tom wanted and what the control tower would let us get. The control tower always wins. But they were as accommodating as they could be on a busy Sunday.

Doing the near 90-degree banks with doors open to get the ultimate shot looks cool when watching it on TV; living it as they do it is another thing. Especially since you know your wife’s mother isn’t cool with some of the adventures you have taken her precious daughter on. This may be the one that finally pops her gasket!

Lookign at Vegas from the Maverick Helicopter
The Strip actually looks pretty cool from up here.

For someone who lives here and gets a bit jaded by the continuous greed of MGM and Caesars, with the 24/7 resort town lifestyle, seeing Vegas from here gives you that moment of clarity and feeling like, “Yeah. I live here, and that’s cool.”

It was like having a second wind or a wonderful reminder of just why you came here in the first place as a tourist.  It’s what made you fall in love with the city and decide to move here.  And it’s why you haven’t left. You “Get It” Again.

What seemed like an hour, when it was only twenty minutes later, it was over. We were back on the ground, safe, smiling, and wondering when we could do it all over again!

Thomas & Mack NFR 2016
There it is – Thomas & Mack @NFR 2020


One of the reasons I made the story updates was to get a fresh look at the video and to see how much this town has changed in the last seven years or so.  The construct that was going on is now complete. To see the once-empty lots now filled with activity.

This town is never dead. We are always building something, tearing something down, or remodeling.  And it really does show in this video.  So, I hope you enjoyed this little look back in time.  It’s been seven years, yet looking at this video, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Thank You

Again. A Big, Big Thank You to Maverick Helicopters. I don’t recommend them just because I sell their tours. I recommend them because they are the finest helicopter tours in Las Vegas (and now Hawaii and California). They have the best helicopters and the friendliest and most experienced pilots anywhere.

My tour guests will always say the same thing.  Go Maverick!

Our thanks to Tom Donoghue for the opportunity

Photos: Tom Donoghue/Debbie D Anthony

Enjoy The Video.  Please leave us your comments.

Fly Maverick!

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