High hopes


 Dear Ace: Every year, my husband and I celebrate the beginning of spring with an aerial tour of the renewed landscape. We’re new to Charlottesville, and wondering where around here we might find a private plane, helicopter, or balloon to give us a bird’s eye view of the area?—Fuselage-Fool-in-Charlottesville

Would-be Charlottesville aeronauts have several places to turn for a jaunt through the wild blue yonder. There are at least four nearby firms that offer hot air balloon rides: Blue Ridge Balloon in Charlottesville, Bear Balloon Corporation (which launches from Boar’s Head Inn), Bonaire Charters at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Monticello Country Ballooning. Each has a website with answers to whatever more specific questions you may have. Did you know, for example, that people with a fear of heights don’t typically struggle with hot air balloon rides, due to a lack of physical connection between the carriage and the ground? This is good news for Ace, who fears heights almost as much as he dreads spilling ionized bottled water on his immaculately-pressed dress shirt and slacks. Indeed, the thought of wasting all those precious electrolytes is almost distressing enough to make him reach for an O’Doul’s. Almost.

If you’re looking for something a little more high-octane, though, you’re probably going to want to go through the Charlottesville Flight Center, which offers sightseeing tours, flying lessons and rentals for small aircraft. The CFC hangar includes several varieties of Cessna biplanes; a pair of Robinson helicopters; an Evektor SportStar light sport aircraft; and a spacious Piper Apache multiengine plane with room for four.

Ace would be remiss, however, not to mention Hotelicopter—perfect for sightseers looking to elevate their search with a luxurious flourish. The company, the brainchild of two UVA Darden School of Business graduates, offers multiple-night stays on its lavish, 18-room airborne roto-hotel, which went down in history as the first of its kind during its christening in early April last year. Each cabin, according to the company website, features a queen-sized bed, media center, whirlpool bath and customizable minibar (Ace’ll take Vitamin Water in his, thanks).

For find out more about the Hotelicopter experience, visit the company headquarters on the Downtown Mall, or visit their website at aprilfools.hotelicopter.com.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com