These flights depart from various airports in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, including Henderson and Boulder City. They leave throughout the day, with the last one taking off in mid-afternoon (great if you like returning during a desert sunset!).
The route from Vegas goes over some striking sights, including Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. In most cases, the airplane will bear south below the Colorado River and head east for Grand Canyon National Park Airport, which is home to all South Rim air tours. By the time you land, you'll have seen up to 75 percent of the canyon.
There are several variations of this airplane ride. The most popular includes a bus tour inside the National Park. It lasts about 2.5 hours and takes in all the key sites including Yaki Point, Mather Point and Grand Canyon Village, which is host to the areas best restaurants, gift shops and museums.
The deluxe version of this trip includes a rim-to-rim helicopter ride. In a nutshell, it lasts 30 minutes and lets you see the Kaibab National Forest, the North Rim and the Dragoon Corridor, the widest and deepest part of the canyon. You even get to fly over Grand Canyon Village, which, in my opinion, is quite helpful as it helps put the National Park into perspective.
The standard airplane that's used is holds 19 people. It's been customized for sightseeing, featuring oversized viewing windows, a spacious cabin, comfortable seats with plenty of personal space and individual headsets if you choose to listen to a pre-recorded narration of the what's passing below.
These planes are very safe. The FAA requires they meet the same standards as cargo planes. Further, they are flown by two pilots, both of whom must pass both FAA-approved tests as well as rigorous annual exams. Lastly, each plane is equipped with state-of-the art navigational instruments and communication equipment.
The buses and helicopters are also first-rate. These motor coaches are double-decker affairs and feature large windows, an onboard lavatory, plasma TVs and powerful climate control systems. Helicopters, too, are designed for comfort, and typically come with large, windshields, comfortable seats and individual headsets that let you communicate with the pilot and your fellow passengers.
These flights sell out often because of how convenient they are. If you aim to get one of these tours, I strongly suggest you book at least a week in advance. Once you get inside of 36 hours before your desired departure date, you'll either get fewer flights from which to choose or none at all. Further, I don't recommend trying to book this flight on the day you want to travel. The problem you run into here is that seats will be more expensive and you're group will be separated.
The best deals on canyon airplane tours are on the Internet. The issue is knowing where to look. I know many travelers who spend hours on the Web looking for the best price only to end up getting an average deal. If you want to save time and cash, buy direct from the tour operator. These folks post the absolute best rates on their website and guarantee it with a 24 hour cancellation policy.