Jerome Begot wanted to be a helicopter pilot ever since he was seven. ‚ÄúMy dad, asked what I wanted to do. He thought I wanted to take over his business ‚Äď a hotel and restaurant, and I said ‚ÄėNo.‚Äô He said, ‚ÄėThen what do you want to do?‚Äô and I just drew a picture of a helicopter in the dirt, and he said, ‚ÄėO.K‚Äô and that‚Äôs what I did.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Begot has run Cayman Islands Helicopters with his wife, Nathalie Legras from a waterfront office and helipad in George Town ever since 2003. The company takes tourists, and locals too, for helicopter rides where they will be able to see the world from a different point of view.
Their very first helicopter was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan, and they had to start from scratch, but people love the rides so much they come back and visit him for more, year after year, he says.
His helicopter is able to take up six passengers at a time. They can opt for different tours: The Seven Mile Beach tour costs $69 and lasts for just under ten minutes.
‚ÄúWe go over Seven Mile Beach, we look at the Kittiwake and all the hotels and come back over George Town, fly over the cruise ships and come back to the base,‚ÄĚ Mr. Begot said.
Then there is the very popular Stingray Tour for $120which lasts between 15 and 20 minutes and takes tourists for a glorious bird‚Äôs eye view of the Sand Bar and Stingray City, The Reef and the Wall, before flying back to George Town via Seven Mile Beach. The most expensive tour costs $295, lasts for just under an hour and takes tourists around the whole of Grand Cayman.
Since he first flew a helicopter by himself in Russia, French-born Mr. Begot has flown helicopters all over the world doing all kinds of work. Sometimes, it has been helping geologists prospect for valuable minerals, out in the wilderness areas of Canada. Other times, he has helped inspect power lines, and still other times, he has taken cameramen up to get those aerial shots you often see in action movies in Los Angeles.
Recently, he helped look for Nathan Clarke who went missing around Seven Mile Beach. ‚ÄúThat was very unfortunate. The family asked me to look in the water and on land in case he had been bitten by something or something else happened to him. We flew on Tuesday after he was missing,‚ÄĚ he said.
From time to time, he is asked to help out with similar work, and always tries to help when he can. ‚ÄúI always try to be kind to people ‚Äď that‚Äôs my philosophy. I think it‚Äôs worked pretty well for me for the last 25 years,‚ÄĚ he says.
The tourists he takes up are amazed to see the world from a bird‚Äôs eye view. One of the highlights of the tour is seeing the beautiful colours of the sea and the North Sound. ‚ÄúThis is my office. Not a bad view, eh?‚ÄĚ he likes to tell them.
Photos by: Christopher Tobutt