Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Dallas company offers a different way to see Christmas lights
Starlight Flights lets you see Christmas from above.
David and Victoria Zapata started a holiday tradition this year that takes their daughters to the stars for a bird's eye view of what Christmas in Dallas is all about.
"It was the first time they'd ever been on a plane," Victoria said. "Seeing their faces and everything was just awesome. They were looking at all the lights and pointing everything out, it was neat."
Having flown on a helicopter tour over the summer, the Zapatas came across Starlight Flight's Christmas light tours and thought it would be the perfect surprise present for daughters Kadence, 3, and McKalyn, 8.
The Zapatas are one of the many passengers Starlight Flight owner David Snell has taken up over the past 20 years. He specializes in providing a safe, pleasant, and affordable way to see the city lights from a unique perspective. However, it's the Christmas season that attracts many of his customers to the memorable experience.
"Now is the perfect time because all of the Christmas lights are up," Victoria said. "It's the perfect time because we got to see in more detail and see all the décor of all the lights and everything."
Coasting smoothly at 1,500 feet in a Cessna 172 single engine airplane on a calm night, one can get a crystal-clear view of every aspect of the DFW area, from the winding streams of a bustling highway to the twinkling warmth of festive neighborhoods. With a full moon to help guide the way, Snell also enjoys taking his guests over White Rock Lake, where the lunar reflection can be seen softly cascading across its ripples.
"It's very tranquil," said Snell. "Kids love it, too. About 90 percent of what we do is during the night time; that's when it's the most spectacular."
Snell takes up to three passengers per ride for half hour or full hour tours. For a half hour tour, guests have the option of flying over Arlington's stadiums and the bright lights of downtown Dallas, or trekking out to Frisco, which Snell called the Christmas light capital of Dallas. There, the dancing lights at Frisco Square beckon you to take in the endless array of suburban streets, where nearly every house is decked with more than just boughs of holly.
With the wing placed above the cabin, Snell's tours also provide a near 360-degree view, similar to a car, but with a lot less traffic.
"It was different than driving through the neighborhoods because when you're up in the sky you are looking at so much more as opposed to driving," Victoria said. "The girls were so much more entertained, as well. The first thing they asked when we were done was 'mom, when are we going to go fly again?'"
With flights leaving out of Addison Airport, Starlight Flight has typically been more of an attraction for couples seeking a quick and romantic getaway without leaving town. Snell and his team of licensed pilots gave 63 tours over the course of three days last year for Valentine's Day and conducted about 110 flights last December for Christmas light tours. Fourth of July tours and marriage proposals seem to be picking up in popularity, as well, Snell said.
"Going up and being chauffeured around all these lights, it's different than being on a commercial plane, and that's what makes it a special occasion," Snell said. "A lot of people don't know small airplanes like this exist to do what we do. We will fly anywhere they want to go; we will fly them over their house if they want."
Hans Amen of Fort Worth was one such person who used the romantic mood to his advantage on Thursday night by popping the question to his girlfriend, Brittany Wilson, of Coppell. Thanks to help from Snell, Amen and a friend arranged strands of Christmas lights in an empty field near Pizza Hut Park to say "marry me," a message Wilson said came as a pleasant surprise and one she will never forget.
"It was a complete shock, I actually didn't even want to go out," said Wilson "I had to say it out loud about twice then I looked at him and was like 'shut up.' He's a keeper, he's got a romantic bone in his body for sure."
Christmas light tours are currently being offered through January 1. For information on Starlight Flight, visit starlightflight.com.
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