Alaska is such a vast state with magnificent, varied landscapes, that taking to the air is the best way to truly grasp its grandeur. Flightseeing tours can send you aloft by helicopter or small plane, providing a bird’s-eye view of remote wilderness that would be impossible to see any other way. As a small and agile aircraft, a helicopter can also bring you to places a fixed-wing airplane would never be able to reach. Some are even equipped to land on snow, with glacier landings one of the most popular flightseeing options in the state. 

Of course, the question isn’t whether or not to go flightseeing, it’s which type of aircraft is best. This in-depth guide will help you make the best decision by revealing the pros and cons of helicopters vs planes.

Sightseeing via Helicopter

A flightseeing tour by helicopter is a fantastic way to enjoy that eagle’s-eye view of Alaska. This once-in-a-lifetime experience also comes with a few considerations, so you’ll need to weigh whether investing in the adventure will be worth those awe-inspiring moments by considering the overall value. Striking a balance between value and your budget is a great way to guide your decision. 

Easier Landings in Remote Areas for Access to Unique Experiences

A helicopter is the ultimate freedom machine that can bring you to destinations that would be out of reach otherwise. They can soar over towering mountain ranges, dip into hidden valleys and bring you to secluded lakes and places where bears roam, far from human civilization. 

If you need access to the Alaskan backcountry, helicopters are an ideal option, as they can land practically anywhere with no need for a runway.

These aircraft can even land on glaciers. If you want to go summer dog sledding but thought it was something that could only be enjoyed in the winter, a helicopter makes it possible to sled over the snow during the warmer months, too. 

Glaciers also provide the ultimate backdrop for Alaska engagement photos. Many couples have taken advantage of a helicopter’s ability to land on a glacier where they can pose right on top of it while surrounded by Alaska’s breathtaking natural beauty. Of course, you don’t have to be engaged or land on a glacier to enjoy the opportunity for epic photos. Helicopters can bring you to just about anywhere in Alaska’s vast wilderness to capture them. 

Pausing for the Best View

Helicopters have the ability to hover in place, pausing so that you can enjoy the view. You’ll be able to admire the finer details of the landscapes, such as the blue ice, crevasses, and the pooling turquoise water of a unique glacier.

This is ideal for watching wildlife, as it provides an unparalleled opportunity to spot animals in their natural habitats. It’s like venturing on a National Geographic expedition, but from the comfort of a helicopter. 

Better Photos

A helicopter has larger windows, which means they aren’t as limited as a plane when it comes to viewing once-in-a-lifetime scenes. For photographers, this is a huge benefit. Combined with the pilot’s better control over the angle and the ability to get into position and hover, it results in incredible photos, many of which couldn’t be captured by plane.

Sightseeing via Plane

Planes may not be able to reach remote backcountry areas or Alaskan glaciers to pose for photos or embark on a dog sledding experience as planes require a runway, but they can provide more comfort and tend to be less expensive. Here are several reasons to book this type of aircraft for your next adventure. 

Covering Longer Distances

Planes can fly faster, higher, and with a greater fuel efficiency, which makes them better for covering more ground in less time. They are also better suited for some locations such as Ruth glacier, due to the distance and elevation.

That said, a flightseeing tour isn’t usually meant to be a speedy experience. After all, you want to take in those spectacular sights and capture photos. But if you only want to get from point A to point B and there is a runway available, a plane can be a more comfortable experience. 

Greater Capacity

Again, depending on how large the plane is, planes tend to have a greater capacity, allowing for more passengers and the ability to carry more weight overall. Helicopters can usually hold two to four people, while small planes can accommodate from two to eight. 

Helicopters vs Planes: Which is Best?

Air is truly the best way to see Alaska. While either style of aircraft can take you on a memorable scenic flight over Alaska’s stunning landscapes, helicopters are undeniably better for an extraordinary tour that delivers the grandeur of nature from a privileged perspective. They’re better for sightseeing with the ability to pause, enjoy the view, capture photos, and easily land on a glacier or in the remote wilderness with no need for a runway. 

Planes are faster and might be more comfortable, ideal for some long-distance charters. That said, your destination must have a runway so your destinations will be more limited.

Alpine Air Alaska can provide that life-changing experience with options for flightseeing tours that can be combined with glacier landings and dog sledding excursions. Look forward to a safe, comfortable ride that departs less than a 50-minute drive from Anchorage in the mountain town of Girdwood. Contact us today to book your next adventure!

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