Myrna Aquitana_LighthouseThis writer’s family had the thrill of our lifetime when my sister, Marjorie D’Angelo pretended to invite my son, granddaughter and I to a “holiday dinner” to celebrate a “milestone” and the Filipino tradition of  “simbang gabi” (evening Mass heralding 9 days before Christmas) this week.

Though it was a rainy day, the skies cleared up by sunset and through Margie’s relentless coordination with a gentleman named Roscoe Gray, the evening became an eventful “thrill of a lifetime” when we arrived at the Van Nuys Airport hangar of Elite Helicopter Tours, owned by Pilot/Entrepreneur Simon Davis.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Simon Davis was formerly a professional snowboarder who has travleled via helicopters through the backcoutries of Canada, Alaska and New Zealand.  Davis has long been intrigued by these helicopter rides and one day, when he was offered a free ride along with two of his buddies, he somehow developed a “bug” or an addiction to flying. This prompted him to enroll in flight school and was trained for a year.

Subsequently he moved to California and settled in Malibu. What started as a hobby for him made him pursue his passion for flying by working as a flight instructor, but in 2006, when he received his FAA license, he bought his first helicopter, a Robinson R44 for personal use, but he discovered not only the business side of it but also a way to connect with people’s emotional side, by way of seeing their “smiles” when they “soar above LA” and tour its wondrous sights.

The 45-minute ride,  driven by our handsome Certified Flight Instructor and Commercial Pilot, Sam Benigno took us soaring through significant LA sights such as admiirng the Christmas lights on top of the US Bank building, which is the tallest building in downtown LA, then we hovered through the famous Hollywood sign, the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier, the colorful Universal Studios, Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, Getty Center, Griffith Park Observatory, Sunset Strip and of course, the sceniic shores of Malibu and its mountains.

As exhilarating as it was on a clear night after the rain, this was truly a “thrill of a lifetime” meant for all of us to share, bond and feel the joyous spriit that this holiday season brings.

As we celebrate the holidays, may you all have good health, peace and blessings on Christmas and throughout the coming year!