Saturday, December 14, 2013

Just For the Heli of It: My First Time in A Chopper

I got an interesting email this week from a producer at Keep in News, an international news wire service I've worked with before. Their segments air on the French network TF1 and usually consist of them interviewing you about whatever entertainment story they're working on at a normal location, but this one was way more unusual. They were doing a report about the rumor that Angelina Jolie was buying Brad Pitt a heart-shaped private island with a house designed by his favorite architect Frank Lloyd Wright for his 50th birthday, which is on Dec. 18, and wanted to interview me during on a helicopter tour over the island.
(FYI, I told them this story was never confirmed and there's been conflicting reports about its validity, but they wanted to proceed anyway so I agreed to discuss it from a rumor perspective.) The idea made me excited but also apprehensive. Anyone who's traveled with me knows that although I fly often, I'm a slightly nervous flyer. I've taken small "puddlejumper" type planes before and really dislike them. And while I was a little hesistant to do a taped interview while flying on a helicopter for the first time where I could quite possibly freak out, I felt like it was a cool opportunity so I agreed. We met at the heliport by Wall Street on a clear and very cold afternoon.

Helicopters are pretty noisy so everyone has to wear big headphones with microphones so you can hear and talk to each other, which was actually kind of fun. We did our charter through Zip Aviation and our pilot, James, was super nice and totally calmed my nerves before takeoff. I had no idea what to expect, but flying in a chopper feels way different than a plane. It's almost like you're floating when you takeoff.

We flew up the Hudson river and around Manhattan, which gave us amazing views of the famous skyline and landmarks like the Empire State building. Because helicopters fly lower than planes, you get insane views of all the skyscrapers and you also have cell service the whole time.

I was originally worried about turbulence since you feel it much more on a small aircraft, but the ride was fairly smooth and the sights were so impressive, I quickly forgot about my fears and started enjoying the experience.
After about 25 minutes, we got our first glimpse of heart-shaped Petra Island, which is in the middle of Lake Mahopac and accessible only by boat or helicopter. In the winter when the lake is frozen, a helicopter is the only way to get there. It's a completely private island with only two houses on it. The first, a small cottage, was built by Frank Lloyd Wright himself in 1950 and second was built in 2008 from his original plans.
The main house is 5,000 square feet with 2,000 square feet of outdoor decks with wraparound panoramic views. There's rock and wood elements throughout the entire house in typical Wright style.
The famed architect has factored into past birthday presents for Brangelina. For Brad's 43rd birthday, Angelina arranged a private tour of his Fallingwater estate, where they celebrated with champagne and caviar in the living room. It was so incredible to see Petra Island and the Massaro house from above. We circled it a few times before heading back down the Hudson to Manhattan, where we were treated to more amazing views of the Freedom Tower.
When we touched down on the helipad, I was almost sad to be back on the ground.
I'm so glad I didn't let my fear hold me back from missing out on such a wonderful and unique experience. It's important to challenge yourself and keep pushing your limits whenever the opportunity presents itself. You can watch the entire segment here. I'd definitely recommend a helicopter tour to anyone after the great time I had. And speaking of great times, I haven't written about Art Basel yet because this week was so busy. We had nearly perfect weather and one of the best parts was cruising around South Beach on the free bikes from the Mondrian, where we stayed.
It's hard to believe that picture was just one week ago, as it's blizzarding outside at the moment in NYC. 
Stay warm this weekend!

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