Rainbow Air Tops Off New $15M Helipad and Tourism Center

June 3, 2024

May 31—City leaders and officials of Rainbow Air celebrated the placement of the final piece of structural steel at the site of the new $15 million tourism center Friday morning.

The construction milestone comes roughly four months after groundbreaking for what has been described as "the largest private tourism development in Niagara Falls in many years." The tourism center will be the new home of Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours beginning in 2025.

The project is located at 56 Acheson Drive, adjacent to the former Carborundum Center on Buffalo Avenue. Rainbow Air plans to build two new helipads and a 30,000-square-foot building that will house aviation-related features.

In addition, Rainbow Air officials say they will be upgrading their fleet with brand new Airbus H130 helicopters, which seat seven passengers plus the pilot. They also noted that the interiors in the helicopters are quiet enough for an audio tour to be played on speakers in the cabin, with translations into several languages for international guests.

Rainbow Air, which was established in 1995, had previously operated its tours from a landing pad near the Niagara River gorge. The tour company said that the pad location required an inconvenient take-off procedure and was the source of constant noise complaints from some South End residents and businesses. They are operating this season from the Niagara Falls International Airport.

The new project, dubbed the Rainbow Air Tourism Center, will be accessed off of Acheson Drive from Buffalo Avenue. It will include room for three helicopters and two helipads, an outdoor dining/gathering area and parking for both cars and buses.

The tour company says they are aggressively marketing the project to tour operators around the world.

The single-story indoor facility will contain a maintenance hangar, an aviation heritage center that will present Niagara Falls' role in the history of flight, and a retail sales area with convenience food and drink items. The facility will also have an entertainment center with 15 custom-designed 3-D flight simulators that will allow visitors to have the experience of flying over the Falls.

The project's architect, Aaron Faegre, said the new location was chosen to allow the company's helicopters "a quick departure to the south, over the Niagara River" which will allow the aircraft to "climb to altitude quickly and minimize noise." The flight path of the helicopters in and around the Falls is tightly controlled by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Air Transport Canada.

Rainbow Air officials said they have conducted studies that show that the noise from departing helicopters at the new site is no greater than the noise of trucks operating on Buffalo Avenue.

"We sought to minimize noise downtown by moving here," Faegre said.

Rainbow's director of operations Paul Faltynsaid the project will allow Rainbow to become "a year-round destination" in the Falls.


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