|British Sky Tours||
WHAT OUR VISITORS SAY...
‘This was my third and most meaningful trip to Normandy. Seeing it by air really put things in perspective for me. You are a great guide and delightful people to spend the day with.’ ......
Visitor from San Antonio, Texas.
*** LOOK BEFORE YOU BOOK ***
The Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the Mulberry Harbour are only 2 hours from London with our Normandy D Day Air/Land Tour
TRAVEL TIPS FOR AMERICANS AND CANADIANS
EASY WAYS TO PAY LESS - APART FROM THE BARGAIN POUND
A lady perusing our website, exclaimed, ' It looks wonderful but definitely expensive.'
Although taking a private ride in a small commercial aircraft is not cheap, we do our best to operate at prices which might tempt a reasonably comfortable family. How do we manage this?
Our safe, luxurious, twin-engine propeller driven aircraft are more versatile, smoother through bumpy skies, yet cost a great deal less to operate than small jets. Compare our prices with any private hire jet operator. Secondly, we charge only the actual cost of your tour, rather than Central London prices including hidden commissions. Our visitors pay simply the real cost of a family holiday exploring the magnificent landscapes of the British Isles and neighbouring Continent.
Still scarred by gunfire from the USS Texas - Pointe du Hoc, Normandy
Private tours are the best way to travel. You can start when you want, see whatever you wish, travel as a family, special interest group or simply tour with friends, moreover have somebody extremely knowledgeable guiding your days. In Great Britain all properly qualified guides belong to the Institute of Tourist Guiding. Private guides are not cheap but will amaze you with their detailed knowledge.
Our guides served alongside many who landed by parachute and glider during the night or waded from the sea on the morning of D Day. Our guides also served with a surprising number of the team at 10 Downing Street who toiled - literally - around the clock for Winston Churchill whose eccentric hours and diet were legendary. This helps enormously when trying to bring alive that ' longest day ' through a tour of the Normandy D Day sites. We also draw upon never-ending research and personal experience of several wars and great political events during the last 40 years. Our new guide in Normandy grew up beside the D Day beaches.
Less than hour after take off - young Americans approaching the Orne River Bridge and the Pegasus Bridge.
The Mulberry Harbour off Arromanches along Gold Beach
NEWS - CLICK PHOTO ABOVE FOR 2012 TOUR PRICES
STAYING IN LONDON - GO NATIVE AND MAKE THOSE DOLLARS GO FURTHER
Overseas visitors arriving in London normally book private tours at their hotel front desk. Consequently almost every hotel guest pays double the real cost of their private tour. This is because the hotel front desk and the tour company split fifty per cent of the brochure price between themselves, leaving the balance to cover the guide's expenses and time. Guides who drive their own cars must cover the cost of petrol through tips - not so easy these days at $ 10 a gallon. Meals, museum and gallery tickets, also parking are charged as extras by the tour companies.
In fairness, the hotel front desks act as a sales force on behalf of the tour companies, thus your concierges deserve reward. They also have enviable, up-to-date knowledge of places to see, where to eat, and the best shows.
You do not always need a guided tour. You will find that the staff at places such as Saint Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London have a vast knowledge which they are happy to share with overseas visitors. Windsor Castle has a wonderful staff who know a great deal about the rooms and works of art throughout the castle - which the Queen looks upon as her real home. Don't be shy, ask questions.
London's busses and tubes are frequent and cheap with special deals for tourists. Buy an Oyster card and take it home after your trip - because you can top it up like a phone card ready for your next visit. The new mayor, Boris Johnson, continues the improvements started by Ken Livingstone, the first and previous Mayor of Greater London. Not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of the old City of London.
When the weather is fine the best way to see the heart of London is by cruising down the Thames on one of the many pleasure boats. You can reach Hampton Court along the river by pleasure cruiser although the trip takes as long as when Henry VIII made the same voyage. There is a regular water bus service from Westminster pier - beside the big wheel - down river to the Tower of London and Greenwich. Nothing beats cruising through London and passing under Tower Bridge. You will discover that a pleasure boat skipper matches any tour guide for knowledge combined with the gift of the gab. Again, not expensive, and fun for the whole family.
Londoners tend to walk everywhere in the West End and City. When I'm up in Town for an event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, or simply meeting somebody at my club, upon leaving the station I walk. And I'm typical. The grandest views in London can only be reached on foot, such as Buckingham Palace and the Horseguards Parade from the bridge over the lake in Saint James's Park.
The main cost of our tours is the flying - our aerial tour brings the D Day beaches into sharp perspective thereby significantly enhancing the ground tour. The same logic applies to all our tours.
We try to keep prices stable. Only dramatic alterations to the rate of exchange for the Euro and Swiss Franc or erratic fuel prices impact on our tour costs. We quote in pounds sterling and once you make a firm booking, short of the odd international crisis, we hold that quoted price.
Our track record on this front is good, despite bankers and politicians, we've managed to keep our tour prices steady for the last four years. We've kept them almost the same this year despite the fuel prices and the low pound more than absorbs this slight rise for Americans and Canadians. Families book months in advance because they know the price quoted for their tour is unlikely to change.
Booking with us will save you hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, compared with the prices charged by operators who attempt to copy our tours. Occasionally we still see people taking a copy tour for a thousand dollars more than we charge - same places, same planes, same pilots - but escorts rather than military veterans as guides. You can't teach combat experience.
For once the best actually costs less.
The white cliffs of Dover - as Julius Caesar first saw them but Napoleon and Hitler never did, not even as tourists - we also take small groups by sea and road with a very comfortable private bus. When the weather is good you can sit on deck for the whole sea crossing.
We can take you over to Normandy by ferry and road - this requires at least one overnight. We sail from Portsmouth or Dover - if from the latter we suggest two overnight stays in France, allowing time for visits to the battlefields of Agincourt and Crecy. Portsmouth is home for the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar.
We can extend your day sky tour of Normandy with overnight stays at a very reasonable price.
Our Normandy air tour brings the D Day landing grounds and beaches within a day trip from hotels in Central London. That's the second money saving advice - there's a lot of life going on beyond Central London.
Previously tours to Normandy required at least 3 to 4 days. Many families fly over to Normandy and the Channel Islands by private plane; what sets apart British Sky Tours is the spectacular aerial tour and the deeper understanding this gives our visitors. Apart from you enjoying a good holiday, our tandem purpose at British Sky Tours is to make travel and history fun, thereby helping all generations though especially the young to understand the past, how sometimes humanity's fate hangs in the balance. And there are lessons for today. Nothing is impossible - no matter how fearsome the odds - when good friends stick together.
TOUR PRICES ON THE INTERNET
Nowadays, more and more private tours are booked over the Internet long before arrival at any hotel in London.
Overseas visitors who book with London private tour operators via the Internet are charged the full brochure price. There is no saving for the visitor through booking on the Internet because the tour operator simply keeps the whole fifty per cent of the brochure price that otherwise goes to the concierge team on the front desk.
Many guides who belong to the Institute of Tourist Guiding work independently and take bookings over the Internet. These guides pass on the full benefit of booking over the Internet. For more information have a look at www.itg.org.uk
We never sell our tours across hotel front desks. We talk direct with you the client. Our tours are priced on the actual costs; aircraft, cars, guides and so forth. There is no ' across the desk ' price, thus you won't pay hidden percentages. There are no extras, no taxes, no tips. We buy you lunch, we pay for tickets at museums.
That's why we can take a group of five people on a day sky tour of Normandy for the same price as a tour operator charges when flying across two people with effectively, an escort rather than an experienced sky guide, sometimes only the pilot.
The American Cemetery above Omaha Beach on the 4 July
CHECK THOSE CREDENTIALS
You may see the term ' military expert ' used by tour operators. This term is a compliment when volunteered by the heavyweight media about an academic writer but otherwise treat with scepticism. Such guides often have no military experience let alone any exposure to combat. There are several excellent tour companies whose guides really are retired from the Armed Forces.
Some tour operators also claim to have ' trained ' their guides for aerial tours. To bring some perspective all involved with British Sky Tours were trained by the Armed Forces of Britain and the United States. We all spent many years putting our training into practise, sometimes under lively circumstances. Our pilots trained jumbo jet captains for British Airways.
Our backgrounds are given at our Air Adviser, our Guides, our Team. How we drew from our combined experience and created British Sky Tours is described at the Sky Tours Story which gives our credentials for taking you and your children flight-seeing and touring.
Our approach and sample prices are found at the Easy Sky Guide and Easy Aircraft Guide with links to sample tour schedules. We believe you must demand only the highest levels of competence before offering tours where a famous place or event first is explained from the air before exploring on the ground.
We know from all the people who have taken our Normandy D Day tour that it's a special trip, for many the trip of a lifetime, often to celebrate a treasured anniversary, a birthday or just a long nurtured wish. Only the best will do for such occasions.
We want our visitors to gain the most possible from their tours. You'll find lots of briefing on this website - we want you to know as much as possible before boarding the aircraft. Do read the pre-flight briefing pages about the planning of D Day. We want you to know as much as possible beforehand thus making your time with us all the more worthwhile.
RED CARPET TREATMENT FOR YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
While our air/land tours are not unique - we've seen such claims - we've been operating for ten years and like to think our team are second to none.
Once you set foot on these islands, British Sky Tours take care of your family and friends with the same kind of comfort, safety, convenience and relaxed efficiency that we provided for the Royal Family and Prime Ministers during our previous careers. So just relax and enjoying being treated like royalty.
We specialise in private air travel and tours designed for families, friends, staff, clients and academic institutions. We show you those places off the usual tourist trails, places we know from living in the countries over many years. You can book our services as a part of your holiday or just for a short trip. We can fly you wherever you wish in Europe, meet you in Normandy or Switzerland, whatever suits your plans.
Less than a morning from London though requiring an overnight - fly alongside the Swiss Alps.
THE SWISS FRANC
Last time the Swiss Franc doubled in value was during the 1970s. At that time the Federal Council was a much stronger team and the National Bank President exceptional - above all, the Swiss Government had Paul Jolles in charge of trade relations and much of the economy, moreover Dolf Peter as the Government's chief economist. Paul Jolles was a giant among Ambassadors - more like a minister than a diplomat - and Dolf Peter could work out the annual money supply for the Swiss Franc on his slide rule and to within 100,000 francs. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
For months the present Federal Council ( seven minister collegiate cabinet ) baulked at taking a decision to force the franc down - because they don't want to be blamed for consequent inflation. Meanwhile flight capital from Greece and other countries poured into Switzerland. After months of indecision, last summer the Swiss National Bank finally gained a green light for setting a target for the Swiss Franc of 1.20 for a Euro. The trade unions would prefer 1.40 or even 1.50 given the number of companies closing plants in Switzerland and opening new ones in Eastern Europe.
Despite successive ' latest packages ' to save the Euro, you will not be surprised to learn that the Swiss Franc remains under pressure - upwards. The previous National Bank chief resigned over currency transactions and was replaced by his deputy. The leading critic was Christoph Blocher, leader of the Swiss People's Party and without his tenacious pushing, the affair might have been swept under the carpet.
Blocher's main complaint about the bank policy remains that during a single year SF 22 billion were spent trying to lower the value of the Swiss Franc. He regards such action as a waste of money given the size and state of the next door Euro. The effect on the Swiss National Bank is to make the leadership much more cautious. The rate of exchange hovers at SF 1.20 to a Euro. The cost must give Blocher - and others - serious nightmares. During April this year the Swiss National Bank bought 66 billion Euros. Switzerland is spending its huge reserves on propping up the Euro but if the Swiss National Bank stopped, the Swiss franc would go up like a space rocket, destroying exporters and domestic businesses by the thousands including factories, hotels and farms, leaving the country as a bank with a post office and superb public transport.
Further, the private banking side of Swiss bank business is making things worse, running a campaign to persuade new money in the developing world, for example oil wealth from Central Asia, to switch their money from dollars into Swiss francs. The advantage claimed is that the Swiss authorities do not ask questions in contrast to the increasing interest of the US authorities. Obviously the Swiss banks are not worried about skilled workers losing their jobs just down the road from Zurich. The National Bank should worry, and sooner rather than later, take action. Swiss unemployment is forecast to reach a record 3.7% this year.
Greece has not yet been allowed to default but cash machines on the streets may prove more telling than the imminent election. Brussels makes no secret that the 17 Euro Zone members have no desire to accept the bill. Spain has joined the feeding frenzy. There is no real money on the table. The European Central Bank has been told to stand aside. The Germans, reasonably, fear another Weimer. A lasting solution remains a long way off. The crash may arrive first.
French and German policy is locked into an attempt to make the UK pay for Greece and Spain by taxing the British financial industry. A levy on all transactions in the EC would mean that the UK pays 80% of the tax raised - about £ 55 billions a year. The British voters would rebel. Why should they rescue a Euro member country a year when they're not in the Euro to avoid exactly that situation? And a financial tax on London would send the business to New York and the Far East and thus raise no money.
The 17 Euro Zone members are now a club within a club - with their own President and the EC Commission as its civil service. The other 10 EC members find themselves increasingly excluded from the councils of the Euro Zone. Although some of the 10 are destined to become Euro Zone members - a condition of EC membership - one does not expect a rush.
Sterling and the Swiss Franc are not destined for the Euro Zone though both economies trade heavily within the zone. After nearly a year of propping up the Euro, my gut feeling remains that the Swiss National Bank will spend a lot more money keeping that 1.20 price for a Euro whenever it rises from that floor. The money market punters say the pound will sink over the next months to about 94 pence for a Euro. I think any long term forecast is worthless. The Euro remains in dire trouble - intentions are not action.
American and British punters argue that the pound is becoming a safe haven. They regard Sterling as still under-valued. Swiss private bankers say the opposite but that's because they're after a huge windfall. That can only happen if panic money has only Switzerland as a safe haven. Some smaller banks are pulling out of Switzerland, regarding the days of easy money as finished.
London has none of the political dangers that now exist for Zurich since the government in Bern may decide to bring in stiff taxes on non-resident deposits. The Federal Government is not there simply to line bankers' pockets. The whole Swiss economy would suffer from another surge in the value of the Swiss franc. Given a Spanish and Italian debt crisis combined with a British trade surplus, even the wily Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, would find talking down the pound hard work.
No action has been taken by the Swiss Federal Council to make importers pass on the benefits of a strong franc to the Swiss shoppers - who still pay for British goods as though the pound was worth over twice as much.
What we do is place as much of the cost of our tours in Sterling which has halved in value against the franc and patronise only Swiss hotels which give really good value for moderate prices by Swiss standards. Six people catching a bargain commercial flight from an airport near London, staying a night in Bern, taking a flight around the Alps for an hour, then flying home with a bargain airline - would spend more money than taking our tour. In other words, we look after you, by using common sense and local knowledge.
Switzerland's tourist office is struggling to promote the resorts but not helped by the Immigration at Zurich Airport. The latter fine Americans, Canadians and Australians plus other nationalities who arrive to catch a Swiss ( meaning the airline ) flight home after long stays in the EC.
There is an agreement between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands called the Schengen Agreement after the Dutch town where the deal was signed. This abolished passport requirements between those countries. The Swiss with other countries recently signed up - Britain is not part of the Schengen Zone - and visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days.
However, turn up to catch a flight home from Zurich Airport, and you'll be fined if you've been in the Schengen Zone longer than 90 days.
One last point - Swiss is not Swissair. The latter vied with Cathay Pacific as the best airline on the planet but was bankrupted a decade back through stupidity by the Swiss government and the chief gnomes of Zurich. Swiss is the old charter firm, Crossair, given a new name and owned by Lufthansa. Swiss makes a profit and has quite a few Swiss staff but you're flying Lufthansa.
We are sometimes asked about deposits. Once a customer has confirmed their intention to travel, we ask you to pay with a bank transfer- we hold your money in a safe mutual bank - at least thirty days ahead of your tour. This covers us against a last minute cancellation other than for reasons of force majeure.
Some customers prefer to fix a price with us months ahead and transfer the money at that time. We hold the money - and the price - but should the tour have to be cancelled, return your payment in full. We keep in touch with you during the run-up to a tour, and thereby avoid last minute cancellations.
Our USA agent is Barry Hyatt, whose company was established on Manhattan Island in 1932. Barry has many years experience in the travel business and we regard his representation of our tours as a great compliment.
Why not treat your family, your colleagues, your clients, indeed yourself.
Bill Pritchard and Dave Frost are former British Airways jumbo jet training captains,
both own pilot's log books showing five years in the sky at the controls of big airliners.
You can make enquiries and book all our tours - air, Chunnel/ferry and road - through ourselves in Sedlescombe, East Sussex, UK and through our agent, Barry Hyatt CTC of Air & Marine Travel in Brewster, New York, USA.
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND OUR WEBSITE
Tours with overnight stays are offered by Channel Tunnel, ferry and road.
How we operate is found at the Easy Sky Guide
For sample tour prices glance at the Easy Aircraft Guide
We always quote - please feel welcome to email for price quotes.
We're steadily adding history and opinion pages
FLY BESIDE THE SWISS ALPS
STROLL AROUND BERN, SWITZERLAND'S FAIRY TALE CAPITAL
More...Swiss unemployment is forecast to reach a record 3.7% this year