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The Sky's the Limit
Hot air balloon, glider, Tiger Moth, aerobatic plane… Flight-based options for teambuilding and staff motivation come in all shapes and sizes, and you don’t necessarily have to leave the ground, as Karen Doyle discovers
Humans have always been fascinated by flight, from the wonder of a hot air balloon rising gently with the sunrise to the adrenaline-pumping experience of a jet looping through the sky. So what better way to reward and motivate employees than with a hands-on aviation experience – for many people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Kelly Brown, recognition and incentive manager for Barclays Commercial Bank, has booked three events in the last two years with 2Excel Aviation in Northampton. ‘A corporate flying day just has that extra wow-factor,’ she says. ‘And the great thing about flying is that everyone starts at the same level – no matter how varied the group, chances are none of them have been flying before. It’s a great way for people to bond over a shared experience.’
If pulse-racing aerobatics doesn’t quite fit the bill, there are a host of different flight options to suit every taste and budget, from luxury sightseeing tours to paragliding taster days and even simulator flights. And for those who prefer to look up rather than down, hospitality at an international air show makes a civilised, ground-based alternative.
Expert at delivering practical business solutions, 2Excel Aviation (tel: 01604 671309) specialises in creating tailor-made corporate events. Qualified staff (including Red Arrow pilots and
professional coaches and practitioners) will design a hands-on experience to develop leadership skills, build teams and motivate staff. A typical day combines theory, practical activities and an
exhilarating flight, followed by a Champagne and canapé reception accompanied by a private air display.
Price: Quotes on request
Based at Kemble airport in Gloucestershire, Ultimate High (tel: 01243 576137) runs high-performance corporate days where participants experience
extreme aerobatics, close-formation flying and Top Gun-style tail chasing. With a fleet of ex-military and aerobatic aircraft, groups will get a sense of what it’s like to be part of a combat team,
to be briefed and to actually fly missions.
Groups: Up to 100
Price: From £185 per person
Flying over picturesque locations in Kent and East Sussex – including the magnificent Leeds Castle and Hop Farm Country Park – corporate packages at Airborne Balloon Flights (tel: 01622
871117) include an hour-long balloon flight, group challenge, in-flight photograph and post-flight glass of Champagne. For those launching from Leeds Castle, entry to the castle is included for the
Price: From £99 per person
Experienced balloonists Bailey Balloons (tel: 01275 375 300) offer hour-long flights over the rolling Gloucestershire countryside. Additions such as model airship racing, model
balloon-making or an inspiring lecture about ballooning to the North Pole can also be included. Baileys can also arrange up-market corporate trips abroad, where ballooning is combined with local
sightseeing and attractions
Groups: Any size
Price: From £99 per person
With launch sites in Norfolk and Suffolk, Broadland Balloons (tel: 01603 495004) fly over some lovely sites in East Anglia, including historic buildings and wildlife reserves. The whole
experience can last between three and four hours, with participants getting involved in preparing and dismantling the balloon. Finish off by toasting the flight with a glass of Champagne.
Groups: Up to 32
Price: From £119 per person
Based at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Classic Wings (tel: 0870 902 6146) operates corporate teambuilding days in a suitably aviation-themed setting. A typical day could start with a
briefing in the control tower followed by a series of command tasks, buffet-style lunch and Champagne prize-giving ceremony. Event organisers can also take advantage of the museum’s wide array of
event spaces, which are ideal for meetings, conferences, galas and award dinners.
Groups: Up to 200
Price: From £100 per person
A hands-on experience at former World War II fighter station Goodwood Aerodrome, Fly a Tigermoth (tel: 01243 528 815,
squaremeal.co.uk/tigermoth) takes participants all the way back to the era of vintage aviation. A trial lesson in a Tiger Moth biplane can be combined with other flying activities, or even an
exhilarating trip around Goodwood’s Grand Prix circuit in a range of modern and classic cars.
Price: £145 for a Tiger Moth flight, £595 for a full day’s activities
A flying school based in West Sussex, Real Flying Co (tel: 01273 440288) offers tailor-made corporate events in a selection of vintage and aerobatic aircraft, including the Chipmunk, Stampe
or Extra 300. For history buffs there’s also the option of flying in the Harvard, a genuine warplane dating back to World War II. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea can be added on to the standard
Price: For non-aerobatic days, from £165pp and for aerobatic days, from £345pp
Effectively the first day of a
paragliding course, Airways Airsports (tel: 01335 344 308) offers a ‘day taster’ for beginners. After a safety lecture, participants begin ground training and short flights using a tow
(rather than launching from high ground) before taking lunch. In the afternoon, learners progress to low flights of up to 300m, and there is the option of a tandem high flight for those who feel
comfortable with the idea.
Groups: Up to 10
Price: From £149 per participant
Oxford Airport-based microlight flying school Fly CB (tel: 01865 370000) has designed a teambuilding challenge to encourage teamwork, problem solving and time management. Participants must
devise a navigation course on the ground before completing the route while solving clues and collecting photographic evidence. Food and drink is available throughout the day, and packages can be
tailored to suit clients’ needs.
Groups: Up to 30
Price: From £115 per person
Group gliding lessons on summer evenings at the Hampshire-based Lasham Gliding Club (tel: 01256 384900). The lesson starts off with learners being towed by an aeroplane at up to 2,500ft with
an instructor at the helm. Once participants feel comfortable, they can take over the controls. Each flight lasts 10–15 minutes and colleagues can relax in the patio bar and restaurant after the
flight. Those who complete the flight automatically become temporary club members and can return for three months to use the facilities.
Price: £40 per person
With six venues in London and the South East, Adventure 001 Events (tel: 0800 035 0036) organises action-packed corporate aviation days encompassing a range of flying activities. A typical
event might include a helicopter hover-challenge, hands-on aeroplane flying lesson, London sightseeing by helicopter and a flight into Heathrow Airport in a simulator.
Price: From £219 per person
Located in Buckinghamshire, Helicopter Services (tel: 01494 513166) runs teambuilding days that include a variety of aviation activities. Start with flight simulator training followed by a
trial Tomahawk lesson and simulated Boeing 737 flight into Heathrow Airport. In the afternoon, participants get stuck in with a helicopter lesson and group flying challenge, before finishing the
day with a one-hour celebration flight that takes them over the centre of London.
Groups: Up to 30
Price: From £179 per person for a trial flight
For those who’d like to sample a number of different flying activities, Rampage (tel: 01488 669820) has a teambuilding package that can incorporate a Tiger Moth flight, trial flying lesson,
microlight flight, helicopter lesson and glider building. With lunch included and more flying in the afternoon, there is plenty of time to bond with team-mates and get to know the pilots.
Groups: Up to 30
Price: From £420 per person
Scotland-based luxury seaplane company Loch Lomond Seaplanes (tel: 0870 242 1457) operates charter flights from Glasgow airport to the exclusive Cameron House hotel, as well as frequent
trips to Oban, Skye and the island of Mull. Arrive in style at Cameron House by taking the scenic route – over 26 miles of breathtaking mountains, glens and the famous Loch Lomond – and disembark
just 100m from reception.
Groups: Up to nine passengers
Price: From £118 per person
A luxury service offering bespoke packages, Fly For Lunch (tel: 020 8542 8100, squaremeal.co.uk/fly4lunch) charters guests in private aircraft
to select destinations in France, Scotland and England. Itineraries vary, but guests will typically enjoy breakfast en route followed by a gourmet meal in a renowned restaurant and activities such
as wine tasting, clay pigeon shooting, golf or snorkelling. Popular ideas include a spa day at Chewton Glen, a fresh lobster feast on an island off the coast of Jersey and a Moët & Chandon tour
in Champagne, France.
Price: From £10,635 for eight people
To experience flying without leaving the ground, Solo Aviation (tel: 01444 484778) organises corporate events at flight centres in Bournemouth or Gatwick. The day starts at a luxury hotel
with a professional pre-flight briefing and three-course lunch. In the afternoon, participants have the chance to fly an airline jet in a multi-million-pound flight simulator, before returning to
the hotel for afternoon tea and prizegiving.
Price: From £245 per participant
Experience what terminal velocity feels like in wind speeds averaging 100–110mph at AirKix (tel: 0845 331 6549) in Milton Keynes. Learners will be connected to their instructor as they move
around the air tunnel, growing accustomed to the airflow, and then released to fly unassisted in a three-dimensional playground. Conference facilities and exclusive use of the air tunnel is also
Price: From £450 for 10 participants
With locations in Yorkshire and Bournemouth, Real Simulation (tel: 0845 680 0550) owns and operates four different kinds of flight simulator which, with hydraulic motion, surround
sound and incredibly realistic visual systems, replicate the exact sensation of flying. The selection of simulators includes an F4 Fighter Jet, Sikorsky helicopter and Boeing 737 or 747.
Price: From £260 per person
AIR SHOWS WITH HOSPITALITY
5-6 Jul: RAF Waddington International Air Show
12-13 Jul: The Royal International Air Tattoo
14 Jul: Farnborough International Airshow
1-23 Aug: The Edinburgh Military Tattoo
14-17 Aug: Eastbourne International Airshow
6-7 Sep: Duxford 90th Anniversary Air Show
13 Sep: The Royal Air Force Leuchars Airshow
No article on flying would be complete without a mention of the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic team renowned for their skill and daring. The good news is they can be hired to perform at private events, but you need to plan well ahead: requests must be made in writing before the end of September for the following summer. Due to their busy schedule, the team is only able to perform 80 private displays per year, and only between the months of May and September. Call June Austin on 01400 266328 to find out more. Alternatively, catch the Red Arrows at a number of public events this summer, including the British F1 Grand Prix, Global Gathering and White Air Extreme Sports Festival.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.