Panhandle Helicopter Reaches New Heights

Faces Panhandle Helicopter
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:45 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Spring weather is in the air and instead of birds chirping, at one business in Panama City Beach, it’s a different creature in the sky.

You can hear the helicopters coming in and out of Panhandle Helicopter’s location on Beach Park Trail. The sightseeing tourism helicopter business just opened up its new facility. The two-story building sits on 10.5 acres of land. It features six helicopters and multiple pilots.

“Possibly do upwards of 200 flights per day,” said JR Hott, President of Panhandle Helicopters.

But it wasn’t always such a big operation. JR Hott and his siblings bought the business in 2008. But for years it he was the only pilot with one helicopter.

“Then a day of 15, 20 rides in a day was exhausting. It was about all I could do.”

Also, he was operating out of a 14x14 shack on Front Beach Road with a small covered hangar. Now things look much different.

“I never really anticipated it would take off the way it has.”

But flying helicopters wasn’t always his career. JR came to the area as an instructor at the Navy Dive School. And when retirement came up, instead of kicking back, JR decided to get his pilots license. Then he and his siblings bought the helicopter business in 2008. Giving customers a unique sightseeing experience of the beach.

“The view is not bad. Everybody wants to come out here and see the marine life.”

They offer multiple flight options.

Now his next mission is to open up a helicopter flight school at the new building.