Flying was always a challenge, a type of freedom only a pilot could appreciate.
Sitting in a classroom at Santa Barbara City College, on the way to earning a degree in architecture, Taylor Nancarrow suddenly sorely missed that familiar, fast-paced lifestyle.
The 24-year-old Santa Barbara native grew up around airplanes, a third-generation pilot who first manned aerial controls at age 13. He decided to leave school to start his own helicopter tour business, and six months ago that dream took form as Nanco Helicopters.
“I’ve learned more in the last six months than I ever learned in the classroom,” Nancarrow told Noozhawk recently. “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot. Being an entrepreneur really is a lifestyle. But it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do so much.”
He’s offering visitors and locals three different aerial tours — 30 minutes, 45 minutes and one hour — featuring varied views of coastline and valley beauty as far east as Carpinteria and west as Gaviota.
He also recently brought on flight instructor Charles Aaron to teach hopeful helicopter pilots and to split tour-guide duties.
Aaron, 33, of Ventura, has the same love of flight flowing through his veins as a third-generation pilot. He used to fly a Red Bull helicopter and his father, Chuck still does, boasting the title as the first — and only — civilian pilot ever licensed to perform helicopter aerobatics in the United States.
“It’s exciting, and it’s a joy to fly,” Aaron said, noting the value of Nancarrow’s tours. “You get to see all of Santa Barbara.”
Entrepreneurialism and aviation run in Nancarrow’s blood. His late father, Chris Nancarrow, who died when Taylor was 16, was CEO of Elephant Bar as well as an airplane and helicopter pilot. And his grandfather, David Nancarrow, founded the Carrows restaurant chain and was deeply involved in Santa Barbara Aviation. In fact, the younger Nancarrow’s operation is based in the same hangar his grandfather called home.
Two to three passengers can fit comfortably inside Nancarrow’s helicopter, a more affordable and intimate experience than that of another recently launched business, Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours, according to Nancarrow.
In addition to tours, Nanco Helicopters offers aerial services to the local agriculture industry, photographers and videographers, and for pipeline or power line patrols.
“I felt this was a market for a smaller helicopter,” Nancarrow said. “I’m pretty passionate about growing this company.”
Nancarrow is in the process of obtaining a special certificate to offer on-demand, aerial taxi service in the coming months, and hopes to eventually bring more (and bigger) helicopters into his fleet further down the line.
Until then, he and Aaron will continue taking tourists to the skies — a venture they expect will pick up this summer.