Soaring above the congested traffic amidst the Los Angeles skyscrapers was an exhilarating experience made possible by Celebrity Helicopter Tours. The VIP Grand Tour covered all the destinations I wanted to see in the LA area. With a little bit of beach, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and the heart of downtown, this thrilling tour featured an exciting jaunt around LA. With a bird’s eye view of one of the most amazing metropolis cities in the US, Chief Pilot Robin Petgrave gave us an extravagant helicopter tour.
Surprisingly enough, though, the helicopter flight and all of the beauty that unfolded before my very eyes was not the most eye-opening experience of my day. It was before, during, and after my flight that I learned about the remarkable journey and overwhelming accomplishments of the pilot, Robin Petgrave. He is a true inspiration with an extraordinary ability to reach and motivate children. Robin donates most of the profits from Celebrity Helicopter Tours to Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (T.A.M.), one of the only interactive aviation museums in the United States that offers hands-on involvement with its static displays, virtual reality aircraft simulators, and youth programs. Another one of his projects is Positive Vibrations where he lands his helicopter on school grounds and delivers motivational speeches for students. He has transferred his entrepreneurial success to the public sector to empower and encourage youth; he’s the Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers, of aviation.
Because Robin loves flying so much, it is a gift he would like to give to potential pilots. T.A.M. is a non-profit organization that gives Robin the ability to realize this gift. In one of the most violent cities in America, Compton, CA, the museum has established an Aviation Explorers program that encourages interest in the field of aviation by providing scholarships and allowing at-risk youth to learn to fly. Students are given the responsibilities of caring for the community by washing aircrafts, up-keeping the airport, maintaining the facility, setting up computer labs at local schools, and volunteering for flight training credits. It provides a place for kids to go after school so they stay off the streets, mentoring for those that really need it, and allowing them to reach new heights through actual flight time.
As my husband and I entered the facility, I noticed several young men in uniforms keeping themselves busy with the general running of Celebrity Helicopter Tours. A well-dressed young man, about 17 years old, introduced himself and asked if we needed assistance. When we told him that we had an appointment at 4:30, he showed us to a waiting area and told us that someone would be with us shortly. Another young man, showed us to our first flight, Sightseers Dream, that was piloted by a former student of Robin Petgrave. His friendly attitude and professional manner made us feel like we were royalty being escorted by a seasoned chauffeur. The relaxing, 25-minute smooth flight consisted of a breathtaking narrated aerial view of some of the most beautiful cities by world famous beaches & landmarks. Sightseer’s Dream focused on the “South Bay” or rather the “Peninsula” of Los Angeles, a hidden gem and definitely a destination not many tourists get to see while visiting. The pilot, Brian Monette, earned his Commercial Pilot Licence by working toward flight credits at Celebrity Helicopter Tours. He works at T.A.M. to help the students who are following in his footsteps, and he is pursuing his CFI Certificate. He serves as just one example of the difference Robin has made in the community.
Robin reaches out to local schools by visiting the school, landing with his helicopter to elevate the excitement and attention of both students and teachers through his Positive Vibrations program. Positive Vibrations is a unique youth mentoring program that utilizes positive and constructive initiatives to teach and assist parents and teachers to motivate and inspire youth. Robin is able to connect with the students on their level as he speaks about serious and adverse affects of the real world such as the gangs and other dangers on their streets. He’s not just another voice in the crowd because he grew up on the same streets and dealt with the same pressures. He teaches kids how to aim really high and by taking kids under his wing, he’s giving them a pair of their own.
Thanks to one man’s vision, Celebrity Helicopter Tours is far more than a helicopter tour company. It’s a place for young people to hold on to their dreams. I witnessed first-hand the work and accomplishments happening at Celebrity Helicopter Tours. The airport grounds were buzzing with local teens working hard at something they love while earning flight time.
I would have assumed that after such great accomplishments and contributions, that some of the fame and recognition would have gone to Robin’s head, making him pretentious and reserved, but as we embarked on our second flight, The VIP Grand Helicopter Tour, I experienced his warm, laid-back, positive attitude that brought out happiness and ease. During the 55-minute flight, we covered a wide enough range of grater LA to complete all the sites I’d longed to see. I truly felt like a real VIP as we weaved through LA’s skyscrapers and celebrity homes. Robin narrated the flight and pointed out several famous landmarks. When he wasn’t acting as tour guide, he was happily singing and telling jokes. He’s impulsive, free-spirited, and a big kid at heart.
There are people out there who truly make a difference in other’s lives and Robin Petgrave is one of them. His vision and implementation expands beyond the inspirational messages and hype to a level that creates exposure, opportunity, and support for young people to develop their own dreams. I was honored to sit next to him as I explored Los Angeles from a new perspective.