By Matt Sheley
Middletown—Jeff Codman has a job where the view never gets old.
Codman, the owner of Bird’s Eye View Helicopters, headquartered at the Col. Robert F. Wood Airpark, is up in the air almost every day when the weather allows, giving him a unique perspective on Aquidneck Island and beyond.
Recently, Codman and his 11-year-old son Jeff Jr. flew a new 2013 Robinson R44 Raven I back from Southern California, a more than 3,000-mile adventure that included flyovers of the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
The same bright red color as the Robinson R44 Raven I it replaced, Codman said the new bird has been a welcome addition to the company, which flies year-round, weather permitting.
“What’s great about being able to do this job is that you get a perspective that most people don’t really get to see,” Codman said. “There’s a freedom to flying, and you get to see the world in a new way. The light is always different and there’s always something new to see, no matter when you go up.”
Codman, a 1988 graduate of North Kingstown High School, said that ever since he was young he had visions of becoming a fighter pilot—a common dream in the era of the Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun.”
Codman soloed in an airplane at the age of 16 and frequently went up in his father Charlie’s plane, which was stored at the airfield at Quonset Point across Narragansett Bay.
But Codman said he didn’t ever think of helicopters until his dad—a recreational pilot—tried one out at Newport Helicopter at what then was known as Newport State Airport in 1988.
“My dad had his first lesson here and said, ‘You have to try it out,’” Codman said. “I still remember it. A Robinson R22 with the doors off and the wind rushing in everywhere. It was exhilarating. I was hooked.”
Since he opened Bird’s Eye View in 2000, the business has grown and fared well, despite the down economy, Codman said. Although he offers all sorts of tours, his base ride is a “mansion tour” that costs $65 per person that costs $65 per person; the price for the time in the sky goes up from there.
“We get a lot of people who want to see what their house looks like or the sights,” Codman said. “No two tours are the same. I always try to vary up the route to make it new and interesting.
Codman said there are quite a few misconceptions about what he does for a living.
“I think when people get into a helicopter for the first time, it’s not what they’re expecting,” Codman said. “People watch too much TV and think it’s all herky-jerky and there’s a lot of up and down movement and it’s really nothing like that. There’s a lot of stability in a helicopter, and that’s what most people say after they finish their first ride.”
Asked if he prefers driving a car or a helicopter, Codman said the answer to that question is easy.
“I’d rather be up in a helicopter,” Codman said. “There are no roads or stop signs and you can go wherever you want.”