by Lorraine Payette, written May 23, 2014
(Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, ON) Kouri’s Kopters Inc. will be taking the Thousand Islands by storm with their brand new series of tours gracing local skies this summer. Running under the name of 1,000 Islands Helicopter Tours, it is guaranteed to lift visitors to heights they’ve never experienced before.
A crowd gathered at the business located at 88 County Road 32 in TLTI, just opposite the Gananoque and District Humane Society to enjoy a celebratory barbecue and entertainment by musicians Patrick Kirkby and Jeff Callery. Dignitaries attending the opening included MPP Steve Clark, Leeds-Grenville; MP Gord Brown, Leeds-Grenville; Mayor Frank Kinsella, TLTI; Mayor Erika Demchuk, Gananoque; and Kathrine Christensen, Thousand Islands Accommodation Partners.
“It’s great to be here this afternoon as we do the official opening of 1,000 Islands Helicopter,” said MP Brown. “Over the last year or so I know that Dave and Ewelina have been heavily working hard along with their team to bring us to where we are today. It’s a wonderful facility… With this new 1,000 Islands Helicopter we’re going to be able to have year round Thousand Islands tourism… We’re already getting some interest from tour operators that want to come here and bring people here on a year round basis, so congratulations to 1,000 Islands Helicopter for the foresight to choose this location.”
“I want to echo everything that Gord has said, actually, and welcome Dave and Ewelina to the Gananoque area, and Leeds and the Thousand Islands,” said Mayor Demchuk. “We wish you luck and welcome to the area and if there’s anything that the economic development department can do for you, we’re ready to help in any way we can.”
“We’re glad to have you in the Township,” said Mayor Kinsella. “We had a meeting a week or two ago over the casino, and one of the things we’re doing is sending a letter to all of the people who came to look at the casino as possible vendors because the government won’t share the list with us, so we’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a helicopter company here that is year round. They can offer your clients something very special.’ We think that you’re going to help us retain our casino, so we want to say thanks very much for that service.”
“I am so overwhelmed by this great turn out,” said Dave Kouri. “I would like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting our grand opening today. Many thanks to the community, the Town and the Township for your continued support, with special thanks going out to our staff and team for their dedication and the long hours spent on this project. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. I’d like to turn everybody’s attention to the little helicopter for a minute. That little helicopter was built by my father from a kit. He’s been the inspiration and motivation for all of us, and if it wasn’t for him and his love of aviation and helicopters, we wouldn’t be here today. I’d like to dedicate this facility in memory of Michael Kouri.”
Several short tours were given, letting the media take photographs and get a sense of what’s to come. Although the helicopters are tiny, they each seat three passengers and a pilot, and feel as safe, secure and intimate as the family car. Known as Robertson 44s, they have 6 cylinder engines and can handle a gross weight of about 2,400 lbs (1089 kg). They carry about 24 imperial gallons of standard fuel (112 L), with about 13 gallons (49 L) auxiliary, and can cruise at speeds up to 113 knts (208 Kmph). Their maximum range is about 300 nautical miles (560 Kms). In the air, the ride is smooth and comfortable, and the manoeuvrability of helicopters makes it possible to get into areas and see things that would be very difficult to do in small planes. For a photographer, the large expanse of glass in the cockpit creates an enormous range of possibilities.
“We were based out of Kingston while we built our airport here, but Gananoque/TLTI was always our planned home base,” said Ken Saumure, Chief Pilot for 1,000 Islands Helicopter Tours. “It costs about $1,000 an hour to keep one of these helicopters in the air, that’s just to break even. The distance from Kingston to the Islands just makes it too prohibitive. Gananoque and TLTI were definitely the preferred location from the beginning.”
The company will be offering three tours to their clients. These will include a $99 tour lasting 10 minutes and giving a view of the surrounding area, a $149 tour lasting 18 minutes and featuring Boldt Castle, and the 30 minute $199 tour showing off both Boldt and Singer Castles. Reservations are unnecessary, with service on a first come, first served basis, and the company is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day.
So far the airport has an office, visitors’ centre, landing areas and hangar, with plans to bring in a gas pump and maintenance facility. In time, there is a possibility that they might start a flight school and train future pilots.
“I’m delighted to (have been) here as the Member of Parliament for Leeds and Grenville to celebrate your very special day and best of luck,” said MP Brown. “I know you’re going to be here for a very long time and you’ll employ quite a few people, and that’s good news for all of us.”