I've spent countless hours plying the skies of Dallas for unique views, both daytime and night. Eventually I decided the typical helicopter flight was no longer enough. I wanted to attempt something which had never been done before over Dallas. I wanted a new perspective.
Dallas is a collection of many parts and downtown reflects that, specific iconic buildings dot the cityscape and frame the rest of the commercial district. I wanted to see Dallas differently. I wanted to see Dallas as one. To do that, I needed one thing: altitude.
A new perspective
Before my new perspective came to life I had to overcome numerous obstacles.
Flying a helicopter at high altitude is challenging, a task for only the most skilled of pilots. The air is thinner at altitude, meaning the blades must work harder to generate the lift necessary to keep the helicopter stable. Doing this at night complicates things significantly.
The airspace above Dallas is highly regulated by the FAA and regional Air Traffic Control. Flight plans must be submitted and approved before attempting a flight like this. Surely enough, the morning of our first attempt we were notified that we would not be able to proceed, with little warning. We went back to the drawing board and waited for another weather front to come through and take with it the atmospheric haze of springtime. Eventually we had our clearance and were ready to fly.
The night and the altitude pose massive barriers for all but the most advanced camera sensors and lenses. We had our clearance, we had our weather window, and I came equipped with two of the finest cameras available today: the Sony a7rII (with the Sony Zeiss 35mm/f1.4 lens attached) and the Sony a6500 (with the Sony 85mm/f1.4 G Master lens attached).
Problems solved. It was time for altitude.
Our flight began 30 miles from Dallas in its sister city of Fort Worth. As we took off just before sunset, we flew over downtown and ascended to our initial altitude of 2500 feet. This was already 1000 feet higher than a typical flight, and already I saw a new world.
As we made our way east over the city of Arlington, I started spotting things happening around and beneath us. First was the Singapore Airlines Cargo 747 coming in for final approach just above AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Then we heard a radio call to ATC from a US Army helicopter. I looked down and saw a Chinook on initial ascent.
Dallas surrendered views of more icons: the American Airlines Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars) and the two new Calatrava bridges: the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the Margaret McDermott Bridge.
Dallas gave me even more views of iconic structures.
From this new perspective Dallas told me stories with color. The orange lights are mostly old tungsten bulbs while the brighter lights are modern LED lights, which are more energy efficient. Looking around downtown you can see progress from this new perspective as Dallas does its part to be an example of sustainability.
Klyde Warren Park, sitting above Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Once separated by a canyon, this park joins downtown and the Uptown neighborhoods, bringing renewed investment into the critical downtown/uptown core of the great city. It truly is amazing how one small piece of land over a freeway can have such impact.