Geoff Edlund is president of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, which last year added a golden helicopter to its fleet, coined “copter #50,” in celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary. Edlund’s grandfather, Elling Halvorson, founded the company and his mother, Brenda Halvorson, is CEO. But that didn’t mean Edlund got to just walk right in and become president without proving he’s the right man for the job.
Papillon Grand Canyon recently launched the new Hoover Dam-area tours at Lake Mead. Talk about the expansion and why you thought this was a good time for it.
Our expansion into the Hoover Dam market was an opportunity we had been pursuing for two years. With the launch of this new base, we offer our guests flight options that are both affordable enough to do on a whim and compelling enough to plan in advance. One of the most attractive parts about this opportunity for us was the location of the heliport, directly off U.S. Highway 93, and the ability to attract drive-by traffic, which is something we don’t see a lot of at our other locations.
Do you think aerial sightseeing has gained more popularity over the past few years?
Without question. The growth can be attributed to a number of factors but one key component is that the aircraft we operate today are designed specifically for sightseeing, which has improved guest experience. These aircraft have spacious cabins, larger windows, noise-canceling headphones and forward facing, theater-style seating. In addition, they have a modified tail rotor system which has dramatically reduced noise levels, making them more environmentally friendly than ever.
Eighty percent of your clientele are international tourists. How do you cater to them?
We want our international guest experience to be as seamless as possible, so we have translated our websites and tour narrations into 10 languages and now can accept payment in more than 20 currencies.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned from your mother, who is the company’s CEO, and grandfather, who is the founder and chairman of the board?
How to do business the right way, the ethical way: This is what our company was founded on, and this is how we continue to operate today. We genuinely respect and value our employees, our guests and our business partners, and it’s satisfying to prove you can still be successful in today’s business world doing things the right way.
Talk about Papillon’s charitable program that you manage and what charities the company collaborates with.
Our founder, Elling Halvorson, has always been known for his philanthropy. As such, the company he created has always been heavily involved in charitable giving. Today, we support countless organizations with a goal of directing the majority of our support to local business communities — Southern Nevada and northern Arizona. We like to spread the support around each year, but two groups we have grown close with in recent years are St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City and Opportunity Village of Las Vegas. We love the work these wonderful people are doing here, and we’re looking forward to flying Santa Claus into the annual Magical Forest tree-lighting event again on Nov. 25.
You spent 13 years as a senior investment manager in Seattle’s real estate market. Why did you change your career path?
I wanted to work for the family business my entire life, but the opportunity wasn’t there for me until five years ago. Our family believes for a family business to be successful, you need family members who have proven themselves in the outside world first.
What has been your most exciting professional project?
There are a lot of exciting projects in this business, but one that stands out would be two years ago when we relocated some aircraft to Scottsdale, Ariz., to fly football fans into the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. This may not sound like a “most exciting project,” but our family is from Seattle and we are diehard Seahawks fans, so the opportunity to share the experience with 25 friends and family members that day is something I will never forget.
Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?
Ten years from now, I see the company having experienced significant growth (similar to the past decade) with expansion into new domestic markets, and possibly an international market as well.
What is your dream job, outside of your current field?
I’m a huge sports fan, so my dream job has always been to play a professional sport. When I was younger, I would have said NBA basketball, but today my knees would suggest PGA Tour golf.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
My wife and I love to travel, so it’s hard not to say the south of France or Swiss Alps, but we value our family most, so I’d have to say summers in Seattle and winters in Manhattan Beach.
What is something people might not know about you?
I have twin uncles with duchenne muscular dystrophy who have taught me how to value and enjoy life.
They are the longest-living people in the history of the disease and they live every day to the fullest, which is something I wish everyone could witness and learn from, especially as a child.