After my first helicopter ride as a wheelchair user in 2018, I set my sights on future helicopter sightseeing tours with even more breathtaking views. My latest helicopter tour took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and it may be the world’s best. Unforgettable views of Rio de Janeiro tourist attractions including Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain and more await.
Preparing for a wheelchair accessible helicopter tour in Rio de Janeiro
Having conducted some preliminary research online, I decided to book a tour with Rio2Fly, the largest helicopter tour company in Rio de Janeiro.
I called/texted the Rio2Fly team, described that I am a wheelchair user, and would need help transferring into the helicopter. They agreed to help and promised to look after my power wheelchair during the flight (since it would be left behind).
Rio2Fly operates a variety of tours, but I selected the #Errejota Flight, which lasts about 30 minutes and takes passengers to most of the city’s top sights. The cost of this flight is 799 BRL, or about $155 USD. As far as helicopter rides go, this one truly offers tremendous bang for your buck.
Getting to (and transferring into) the helicopter
On the day of my flight, I was staying at the Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro hotel, one of the most accessible hotels in Rio de Janeiro, which is located in the Barra da Tijuca district — only about a 25 minute taxi ride from Rio2Fly’s hangar.
Upon arrival to the hangar, I was asked to complete some paperwork and release forms. While I awaited my scheduled flight time of 4:30 p.m., I ordered a drink from the onsite concession stand. When it was time to go, staff led me a short distance, perhaps 200 yards, to the helicopter. The other (nondisabled) passengers were transported to the helipad in a golf cart.
Because Rio2Fly uses the Robinson R-44 helicopter, which I had ridden twice previously, I knew that an accessible transfer would be possible.
I requested to sit in the front seat, not only for the better views, but because there is more room to execute a transfer. The Robinson R-44’s doors can be easily removed and reattached, and staff did this to provide for a safer transfer. The transfer was made easier thanks to my height adjustable Permobil F3 power wheelchair, which raised me a full 12 inches and making me essentially level with the helicopter seat.
While I was able to assist in my own transfer from the wheelchair to the helicopter, staff braced me to ensure that I didn’t fall. In the future, I would consider bringing a slide board to provide for an additional level of safety, and to make the process easier on myself and those helping me. After boarding, the door was reattached, I buckled the seat harness, donned my headset and we were off!
Time to fly: Stunning views from a wheelchair accessible helicopter tour in Rio de Janeiro
Moments after departure from the Rio2Fly base, we were treated with stunning views of the Brazilian coastline, beaches and the South Atlantic Ocean.
The 4:30 p.m. departure time was ideal, as the sun was low enough on the horizon not to disturb the view, and a beautiful blue sky served as a backdrop to what many believe is South America’s most beautiful city.
The helicopter passed by a number of the hotels I have stayed at previously, including the Grand Hyatt, Sheraton Grand and JW Marriott. We also flew alongside and over the iconic beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.
The star of the show, of course, was the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which towers over the city of Rio de Janeiro. Cloud cover slightly obstructed the view, but the helicopter pilot circled the statue several times in search of a clearer perspective.
The third pass was truly the charm, as I was able to snap a photo of the statue clear of cloud cover in the foreground. Because the top level of the statue’s viewing platform is not wheelchair accessible (it is accessed by escalator and a stairway), this was as close as I would get to Cristo Redentor during my trip.
After seeing the statue up close, it was time to return to base. With the sun beginning to set behind the surrounding mountains, the coastline views became all the more striking.
My helicopter tour of Rio de Janeiro was truly marvelous. I’m an aviation geek, so this likely won’t be my last time above the clouds in a whirlybird — but this tour was magical, a truly memorable experience that will be hard to beat.
Rio2Fly did a fantastic job in meeting my accessibility needs. Their willingness to assist with transfers from my wheelchair and the care shown by their staff throughout the journey allows me to confidently recommend Rio2Fly for your accessible helicopter tour in Rio de Janeiro. Take off and enjoy the view!
If you could take only one helicopter tour in your lifetime, which destination would you select? Is Rio de Janeiro the best helicopter view in the world? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!