Before becoming Chairman of Papillon Airways, Elling Halvorson owned a construction company that specialized in projects located in high logistic remote areas. When the need arose for a pipeline needing to cross 13.5 miles of treacherous canyon terrain, Halvorson's team seemed best suited for the job. Though not expected to be an easy job, laying the pipe would require pioneering methods to ensure its completion. Halvorson decided to utilize helicopters to the move huge sections of the pipe over a vertical mile into the Canyon. Each day that workers and guests would fly to the project, the majestic scenery was so captivating they began requesting chartered helicopter flights.
In 1965, Grand Canyon Helicopters was born. Today, Papillon Airways Inc. continues to operate its largest base in Grand Canyon, Arizona. The company offers air tours of the Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon West, Las Vegas, Sedona, Flagstaff, Phoenix and Scottsdale. Offering several tours ranging from 30 minutes to all day and overnight excursions, including ground activities. Papillon tours are designed to afford maximum flight time so guests can discover the great wilderness and scenic attractions in and around the Canyon.
Papillon (taken from the French word for "butterfly") is the only company that flies the entire Grand Canyon, including areas untouched by man and inaccessible by foot. This special distinction means that all Papillon pilots are "top flight," having logged thousands of hours in flying time, and are additionally trained to fly all areas of the Canyon in an environmentally conscientious way, leaving the Canyon in its original, pristine condition for millions of future visitors.
All pilots are trained in accordance with guidelines laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 135 requirements, which is specific for sightseeing operators. Being the premiere helicopter sightseeing company in the world, Papillon offers the little extras that help make any trip special: Friendly staffers that provide award-winning service; individual stereo headphones that let the observers enjoy interludes of dramatic stereophonic music and the pilot's expert flight narration (available in eleven languages); and climate controlled helicopters with oversized viewing windows that lets passengers enjoy the Canyon's grand beauty in comfort.
Courtesy van pick-up from most Grand Canyon area hotels to the Papillon heliport is also available, as is van pick-up to most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip to Papillon's southern Nevada heliports. Papillon accommodates special programs and adventures for companies, associations, and incentive planners to meet their group's individual needs, time restraints, and budget. Customized charter tours can be planned to include land activities, transportation, and food. Some popular group tour packages offer picnics in exotic settings, sunrise flights with breakfast stops, and golf packages. Throughout its history, Papillon has created special events for Allstate Insurance, Digital Equipment, Ford Motor Company, IBM, and many more.