In a working day, Tim L’Esperance sees more of Halifax than most of us see in a month. The Vision Air Services pilot offers helicopter tours of the region, ranging from Hubbards to the Eastern Shore to points ever further afield.
When I went up with him, I arrived at Vision Air Services at 11:00 a.m. L’Esperance arrived a few minutes later with his clients: a man and his 13-year-old daughter, visiting from Toronto. She looked confused, and I found out why a couple of minutes later when her dad asked her if she wanted to go on a helicopter ride.
It was a surprise.
L’Esperance took the three of us to the helicopter and, after going through all the safety routines, we climbed in. We spent a little more than an hour in the air, covering huge swaths of territory that included parts of Halifax, Dartmouth, Peggy’s Cove, and Hubbards. It was a clear day, and we saw a herd of seals swimming and playing in the ocean, and a couple of shipwrecks. We found the Bluenose II in Terence Bay. “We combined about five day trips into one,” L’Esperance says.
About halfway through the flight, we stopped on Betty Island. While the others explored the island, L’Esperance told me about his work with Vision Air Services.
“It’s a very mixed bag,” he says, “everything from tourism to film photo shoots.”
His favourite job was a film shoot for Canada Over the Edge, an aerial documentary series exploring Canada’s shores. “It involved filming throughout the Maritimes, which was an eye-opener for me as it extended my knowledge,” he recalls. “We basically covered every little bit of coastline. The little surprises on that trip were amazing; from seeing people out enjoying their beautiful areas to seeing a blue whale from a helicopter and knowing that you’ve captured something pretty magical on film.”
He also talked about working on the salvage of the MV Miner, a ship that ran aground on Scaterie Island in 2011.
“It was a place you love to hate,” he says. “It was a beautiful wilderness area, but it was also the most challenging flight environment we’ve ever had to deal with over a 12-month period. Everything from fog and very high winds, to quick changes in the environment for flying. So that was a very rewarding project to be involved in.”
L’Esperance is animated when he talks about “showing off the province” to tourists and locals. He refers to the people flying with us. “They’re excited to have a surprise within the family, and to show off the province,” he says. “Sometimes, we get to meet other people who come into the province to golf and want to get there quickly but then we’re also able to show off the province and share our knowledge of some of the history and current events.”
It’s educational for locals, too. The flight offered me a view of the province from a whole new perspective, and my appreciation of Nova Scotia is richer for it.