Aerial tour business goes into third decade
Far above the Dallas/Fort Worth skyline flies a business that has been delighting passengers for more than two decades.
Frisco resident and entrepreneur David Snell began Starlight Flight, an aerial tour business, when he was a college student studying aviation at Louisiana Tech University. While building up his flying time, he also began his aerial tour business.
"I registered my name, got a tax ID number and handed out fliers at local apartments," he said.
Once back in the Dallas area—he graduated from high school in Plano—he proceeded to build up his business.
Using small, Cessna 172 single-engine planes, he has kept the business flying since 1991.
Tours depart from the Addison Airport, about 15 minutes from Frisco.
Starlight Flight offers 30- and 60-minute aerial tours in downtown Dallas, and as far away as AT&T Stadium, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Six Flags over Texas in Arlington.
Holiday tours, specifically Christmastime holiday light tours and Valentine's Day tours, are popular.
The company will even help arrange the perfect proposal by providing flowers and other amenities.
"We've had more than 200 marriage proposals on our tours," Snell said.
Most of his customers are couples out for a special occasion, but his tours are for anyone who wants to go flying.
The tours are especially useful, he said, for showing an aerial view of land for potential development.
The wings of the Cessna 172 are above the cabin, rather than below it, allowing for a superior view for the pilot and up to three passengers.
Snell compares the visibility to looking out a car window.
"The average person doesn't know this type of plane exists," he said.
The planes are safe and easy to pilot, Snell said. The company has had no accidents.
The person who sits in the co-pilot seat even has the opportunity to fly the plane under the watchful eye of the pilot.
While he has a policy that he will turn back if a passenger gets scared, Snell said he has never had to cut a tour short.
"It's cool to watch people's perceptions change when they get up there and realize they aren't going to die," he said.
The company's business model means Snell sees little risk. He does not own the planes—rather he rents planes from an Addison flight school, Lone Star Flyers, on an as-needed basis. That way, if flights are down for a particular month, he has no overhead to cover.
Starlight Flight allows him to pay for the hobby he loves—flying, while also operating a business.
The business also does custom tours, and Snell said he is looking to branch out into more commercial work, instead of strictly entertainment flights.
Snell also owns and operates Cajun Crawfish Co. and DFW Custom Wood Floors, which take up much of his time, so he has three or four pilots who also conduct tours for Starlight Flight.
Starlight Flight options
- 30-minute flight— Fly by Galleria, Highland Park, Love Field, Las Colinas, downtown Dallas, American Airlines Center, Reunion Tower, circle downtown Dallas, Fair Park, Cotton Bowl, White Rock Lake, SMU, High Five.
- 60-minute flight— Locations included in 30-minute flight, plus Lone Star Park, Old Naval Airstation in Grand Prairie, Six Flags, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, General Motors plant, DFW Airport.
- Introduction to flight instruction— You and flight Instructor conduct a pre-flight, questions/answers about plane and obtaining a pilot's license, practice flying basics.
- Aerial photography services— Overview of commercial property, residential land survey/ranch based aerials, commercial construction/aerial survey.
- Marriage proposal flight— Starlight Flight will help plan a romantic flight including flowers or special amenities on board before your arrival.
- Valentine's tour— Starlight Flight can arrange for a dozen roses or mixed flower bouquets to be on board prior to your flight.
- Christmas lights tour— Pick your neighborhood to fly over for a sky-high view of Christmas lights.
- 30-minute nonprofit flight— Discounted rates for nonprofit organizations.
- South Fork Ranch
- Traffic watch flight