The Hippo


Nov 21, 2019








Scenic plane rides

Emerson Aviation 118 Kimball Road, Gilford, 293-7980,
Lakes Region Seaplane Services 1290 Union Ave., Laconia, 387-7575,
Silver Ranch Airpark Jaffrey Airport, 190 Turnpike Road, Jaffrey, 532-8870,
White Mountains Scenic Flights Mount Washington Regional Airport, 5 Airport Road, Hangar 16, Whitefield, 616-9246,
Monadnock Aviation 80 Airport Road, Keene, 357-7600,
La Belle Avion Scenic Flights and Aerial Photography Moultonborough Airport, 566-1808,

Not your average plane ride
Scenic plane rides in New Hampshire

By Kelly Sennott

 The best way to get to know a place is by viewing it from up in the air — so say New Hampshire scenic flight pilots.

Harvey Sawyer, who runs the Silver Ranch Airpark in Jaffrey, said via phone his airfield is more like a farm than an airport. There’s no security, no baggages, and nearby are horses and an ice cream shop. You don’t even have to fly; he welcomes people to just come out, unfold a lawn chair and watch the sun go down behind Mount Monadnock nearby.
“We’re a people place. Lots of [airports] you go to, you have to stand behind barbed wire. We’re not that kind of place,” Sawyer said. “I always tell people who say they don’t like to fly, [they] will after [they] fly with me. And most people do. It’s smooth. It’s like riding in a car with the windows rolled down. … You don’t feel that high, and you don’t feel the speed. You just have this beautiful panoramic view.”
The Silver Ranch Airpark, a family-run business founded in 1946, features a 3,000-foot runway and specializes in personal and executive charters and scenic flights around the Monadnock region. Sawyer, who’s been flying for 50 years now, said hot spots on the tour include local water bodies like Contoocook Lake, Gilmore Pond and Dublin Lake. The main attraction is Mount Monadnock, which you get so close to you can see the hikers slowly trailing up. If there’s something in particular you want to check out, just ask.
“It’s totally different because everybody gets the window seat and we’re flying low enough so that you can see things really well,” Sawyer said. “And as a passenger, you’re in control. … We love to meet people and share the joy of flying. I always try to tell people, I still think it’s magic after many, many years of flying.”
The best times to go are usually mornings and evenings, when light is great and winds have calmed. (Though when in doubt, call ahead of time.) The Federal Aviation Administration defines a scenic flight as going no more than 25 miles from the departure location, but because Sawyer is able to offer charter flights, he can also take passengers on longer rides to see sites like Mount Washington or the coastline.
In the Lakes Region, you have a couple of options for scenic flying. Dave French started Lakes Region Seaplane Services in 2010 after years of flying large planes. He takes off and lands on Lake Winnipesaukee, and common sights include Weirs Beach, Paugus Bay, the Ossipee Mountains, Mount Major, Castle in the Clouds and Rattlesnake Mountain. If the air’s calm enough, he might let a passenger take the wheel. 
“That’s the reward of this. … To have a seven-year-old maneuvering the plane with his parents behind him, and to see the look of awe on his face,” French said.
You can also take a scenic flight via Emerson Aviation out of the Laconia Airport. Trips are around the lake, though Linda Emerson, who runs the company with her husband, said passengers often like trolling around to spot their homes or where they’re staying nearby. It’s so different, she said, from anything you’ve experienced before.
“It’s beautiful. It’s not like when you fly the airlines,” Emerson said. “You’re flying much lower. … The wings are above where you’re looking out the window, and you’re at an altitude where you can see everything.” 

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