This story was originally published by NZ Herald.
Winston Aldworth flies from Albany to Tantalus Estate on Waiheke for an elaborate lunch date with Heletranz
The aircraft: An Airbus Helicopters EC130, aka the Eurocopter. It’s a beaut machine, and will buzz along happily at north of 200km/h.
My seat: I had a window seat in the back on the way out and a spot up front on the way home — basic helicopter joyride etiquette dictates that you swap around for the return journey so everyone gets a chance at the best view possible.
Service: Check in is swift (“Hi, I’m Winston.” “Great. You’ll be off in a few minutes”). Our pilot Jules Miller is your classic Kiwi aviator: Matter-of-fact safety briefing (check); well-rehearsed one-liner about not inflating lifejackets inside the cabin
(check!); bone-dry humour (check!), sunnies on (check!) — we’re ready for lift off!
How full: There’s room for two passengers in the front seats, alongside the pilot, and four spread across the back. So, seven seats in total.
There’s plenty of space inside. The EC130 has, it’s claimed, the largest cabin of any chopper in its class.
Fellow passengers: A couple of social-media types in the influencing business and the fabulous Sofia Ambler, owner of Heletranz.
Food and drink: Store your tray tables, folks — you won’t be needing them. After our short, stunning jaunt across the Harbour, we land at Tantalus Estate, onWaiheke.
The place looks stunning as we twist into our descent. We’re there to check out the Heli Wait & Return Spring Special, a fabulous long lunch for high-rollers and those (like us) who are more high-five and faking it.
Things start well — we’re greeted upon landing with a glass of Tantalus Methode Traditionnelle. From there, we take a table on the outside deck where — wait for it, Aucklanders — it was too hot to sit in the direct sun. We settle in quickly for an excellent three- course lunch.
Chef Tino Passano was recently named as the Australasian Tapas Champion for 2019, and will be representing New Zealand at the World Tapas competition in Spain later this year. Yes, it’s a thing. He does fine work on our lunches — one at the table opted for the beef, the rest of us dove into divine snapper.
Flight time: We’re in the air for around 15 minutes each way. The helicopter will wait a maximum of two hours for you to have your meal.
Price: The price per person gets better the more you have. For six people, it works out at $540pp; for two, it’s $1260pp. (You can also do two people in a Robinson R44 for $930pp.)
Entertainment: We flew on a mint day (one of those ones where everyone starts talking about how winter must definitely be finished), getting a fab view of Team New Zealand doing sea trials and taking an angled banking fly-by for a good look at Rangitoto’s crater. The best view? When you’re seated up front and can see the ground whizzing past through the bubble canopy right by your feet.
The final word: A superb celebration of the best of Waiheke.