Bergen Helikopter: quick connections to lighthouses
Photographs, courtesy Bergen Helikopter AS
By Michael Holtermann
Finding a lighthouse with appeal in Norway is not difficult. At Lighthouses of Norway, we can barely choose which one to post next. Volunteer groups and institutions around the country are working hard with restauration and upkeep.
What we hear back from travel professionals and our people in the field alike, is that the problem arises when it comes to contacting lighthouses and, for some of them, how to get to the desired lighthouse. Clearly, the landlocked ones are more easily accessable, and the ones farthest out in the ocean require a substantial research of time tables, way of transportation, and the combination of all the above, often with information only to be found in Norwegian with an added required insight into geography, logistics, seasonal limitations, and schedules.
Our contributing travel photograher and writer Sigrid Thorbjørnsen set out from Oslo this afternoon and is taking the Bergen Railroad overnight train to Bergen, where she will have one hour before venturing on the beautiful, but long and complex journey to Slåtterøy Lighthouse. As she put it: “When you’ve reached Slåtterøy Lighthouse, it seems like you can cayak to ‘Amerika’ – it’s that far out.”
We know that some lighthouses can only be reached by helicopter, and she looked into how this would apply to lighthouses in the Bergen/Fjord Norway region. It turned out there is one helicopter company offering such services from Bergen International Airport, Bergen Helikopter AS. There are other helicopter companies, but they seem to handle transport to and from offshore oil rigs in the area.
Sigrid gave me the contact information for the CEO and pilot of the company, Trond Alstadheim. I decided to ask him some questions, and got an answer immediately. Already a sign of good service.
Below is a translation of my written interview with Trond earlier today.
Trond Alstadheim (TA): Bergen Helikopter AS is a small company that was started a few years back. At that time there were other people involved. I took over as CEO in 2011. The company has until recent been run as a business on the side, but now that I have taken over, I have ambitions to build it into something more. The economy has been pretty tight and therefore marketing has been virtually absent in recent years.
Our mission is varied. We work a lot with mobile phone companies that have base stations on the many mountain peaks, contractors, electricity companies, and, of course, tourism. I want to offer more sightseeing tous and hav some projects underway to achieve this.
Michael Holtermann/Lighthouses of Norway (LoN): Do you offer transport to lighthouses in the Bergen area? If so, how many lighthouses? A list of names could be helpful.
TA: Yes, we do. We have requests for tours to Marstein Lighthouse where there is restaurant / function rooms with accommodation options. I can come back with a more detailed list of distances and flight times to various lighthouses later.
LoN: Who uses helicopter? Norwegians? Visitors from other countries?
TA: All kinds of people. We take care of bachelor parties, birthdays, and weddings. These are mostly Norwegians. Tourists come from all over the world, but there are many Russians and Americans. In 2012, 400,000 travelers will arrive by cruise ships to Bergen. I work to position ourselves better in this market.
LoN: Is four people max. capacity of your helicopter?
TA: Today we only have one helicopter. It is an EC120 with four passenger seats. This spring, we’ll probably sign a contract with one of the largest helicopter companies in Norway. Then we can offer two additonal types of helicopters – A Robinson 44 (R44) for three passengers, and one AS350 that can take five passengers. I hope these will be in place in June.
LoN: What price range are we talking about?
TA: EC120 costs NOK 9,000[convert number=9000 from="nok" to="usd" template=" (approx. US $%result%)"] per hour, or NOK 150[convert number=150 from="nok" to="usd" template=" (approx. US $%result%)"] per minute, plus 8% tax. The R44 will be approx. NOK 6,500[convert number=6500 from="nok" to="usd" template=" (approx. US $%result%)"] per hour and the AS350 helicopter around NOK 12,000[convert number=12000 from="nok" to="usd" template=" (approx. US $%result%)"] per hour, althoug this is not yet confirmed.
LoN: Are you planning an English version of the home page www.bergenhelikopter.no?
TA: Yes Sir! Here again, it is the economy that drives us, but last week I delivered translations for sightseeing trips to our web master in English, German, Russian, and Spanish. He will first make some simple links on the website we currently have, but the plan is to create a new site when I have the money.
LoN: Are you working with any tour operators?
TA: Today we have no formal partners, but there are always random travel agents selling trips for us. To me it seems to be mainly Russian companies.
LoN: Are there package tours, or are all independent travel?
TA: We have regular sightseeing tours that will be announced when the website is updated. I will also start a partnership with a company that runs RIB boat sightseeing trips in the Bergen area. Otherwise, we somtimes fly tourists to Myrdal and Flåm. Then they take the amazing Flåm Railway train. They return to Bergen with us, or via train.
For transportation between Bergen airport and city center, I have a partnership with a minibus company.
TA: We are too bad at this. Slowly but surely, I hope we will do more marketing in general…. We are members of the Bergen Tourist Board, and with our membership comes a link on www.visitbergen.com, but it’s hard to find. I want a banner on the front page …
Otherwise you can follow us on Facebook.
A follow-up on this interview will be posted soon. By the time this article was posted, Sigrid had arrived in Bergen and has already sent photographs from the harbor waiting for the ferry.
Helicopter time from Flesland Airport to various lighthouses:
- Holmengra Lighthouse in Fedje, 39 nautical miles, 50 minutes total helicopter time (to and from)
- Slåtterøy Lighthouse in Bomlø, 25 nautical miles, 35 minutes total helicopter time (to and from)
- Hellisøy Lighthouse in Fedje, 35 nautical miles, 45 minutes total helicopter time (to and from)
- Kråkenes Lighthouse Vågsøy, 110 nautical miles, 120 minutes total helicopter time (to and from). In Vågsøy there are four lighthouses: Hendenes, Kråkenes, Skongenes, and Ulvesund.