Grand Canyon Helicopter Safety

At Papillon Helicopters safety is priority number one! Papillon Airways, Inc (our parent company) and its subsidiaries are fully certified by TOPS (Tour Operators Program of Safety.) TOPS ( is an organization whose sole goal is to insure safety and reliability throughout the air tour industry. Operators who carry a TOPS certification have agreed to operate their airlines to standards that far exceed those set forth by the FAA. These standards are upheld and enforced by regular internal audits and annual external audits by independent industrial safety auditors.

In addition to stringent operating standards, TOPS members provide a wealth of safety training to all employees involved in any portion of a visitor's flight. This includes additional safety training for management, flight crew, and ground support staff. The aircraft themselves are also required to carry additional emergency communications equipment beyond what is required by the FAA. For example, Papillon aircraft are all equipped with an advanced radio stack that connects the pilot to a dedicated company radio network.

With this network, the aircraft is in contact with our highly trained flight following staff for the entire duration of the flight. Information about weather, additional aircraft, winds and more are relayed by the flight following center to other company aircraft flying in that area. When flying with a TOPS certified carrier guests can be assured that they are touring with some of the safest and most highly trained professionals in the industry. Insist on flying only with TOPS carriers!

TOPS Missions & History

TOPS was created to unify air tour companies throughout the industry and strengthen the safety standards that these companies operate under. They have a mission to provide guests and passengers access to scenic areas while providing good, safe, and professional air tours.

In 1993 a group of air tour operators met to discuss what could be done to offset the media downpour of negativity towards the helicopter tour industry and to band together to increase safety. At that point the air tour world was going through a major growth period. Safety concerns were brought forward by the public and media as lacking on the part of tour operators.

Throughout the discussions within the Helicopter Association International (HAI) a new group was formed, the Helicopter Tour Operators Committee (HTOC). The committee met and discussed issues within the industry and found the need to form a program to suit the special needs of the tour operators as well as address the publics’ view of the tour industry.

In 1995 a presentation was made to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The presentation was well received and TOPS was welcomed to the table of aviation safety. In 1996 TOPS was incorporated as an independent non-profit organization and the TOPS Program of Safety was implemented.

TOPS was formed solely for the purpose of improving all safety aspect of the helicopter tour industry. Since 1996, TOPS has shown it effectiveness in increasing safety. TOPS has become the industry standard in safety for helicopter tours and continues to raise the bar in all aspects of tour safety.

TOPS Qualifications

Qualifications to become a member are strict and held at a higher level then what the FAA requires. They are put at such a pinnacle level simply because TOPS looks for dedication to safety from all members of the organization. Each member understands that the purpose of the program is to promote safety through higher disciplines and that the responsibility rests upon the shoulders of each individual operator.

In order to become a member of TOPS the company must have a sightseeing base as a whole or significant part of their operations. Any potential member must pass an initial safety audit and then also pass an annual safety audit. All current members are required to pass a yearly safety audit as well.

Once accepted members are then given all privileges as all other members (certificates, endorsements, use of TOPS logo, and plaques). Being a member of TOPS puts each operator into a higher bracket where safety is concerned and for that TOPS members are viewed in a brighter light by the FAA and NTSB. Higher safety standards and yearly audits have had a significant impact on the helicopter tour industry. Statistics show a reduction in accidents and safety concerns industry wide. Always insist on flying with a TOPS certified company.

For more information on TOPS visit