Chat with Us Chat with Us

History with the Canyon

a vintage photo of a grand canyon helicopter tour

The pipeline across Grand Canyon is where Papillon’s story begins. 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.

The Halvorson family stands at the Grand Canyon on a helicopter tour

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's Legacy Today

Elling Halvorson Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters
Elling Halvorson

Founder | Papillon Group

Elling Halvorson is the founder and chairman of the board for Papillon Group, as well as the patriarchal figure for the Halvorson family who, today, lead the company. Celebrating 50 years in 2015, Papillon Group is the longest-running family owned and operated helicopter tour company in the world, serving 3,500 passengers daily. Within the industry, Halvorson is not only well-respected but also considered one of the pioneers of aerial tourism. The company’s story began in 1965, thanks to the vision of Elling Halvorson.

Brenda Halvorson Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters
Brenda Halvorson

Chairwoman of the Board | Papillon Group

Brenda Halvorson began her career with Papillon in 1986. She has served as chief executive officer for nearly 25 years. Under her leadership, Papillon Group and its brands have grown from 17 helicopters to 58 helicopters, 24 fixed-wing aircraft and 40 transportation vehicles. She led the companies through the purchases of Kenai Helicopters, Air Grand Canyon, Lake Mead Airlines, Grand Canyon Airlines and Scenic Airlines.

At Papillon, experience is the difference. Great service is key.

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.

Several pilots stand in front of a helicopter used for Grand Canyon tours

Federal Aviation Administration Pilots on Board

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.

Papillon Grand Canyon helicopters transport van parked in front of their Las Vegas air terminal

Courtesy Van Pick-Up From Most Grand Canyon Area Hotels

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.