Not many 24-year-olds fly a commercial helicopter several times a week, and few own their own business. Taylor Nancarrow does both.
A third-generation Santa Barbaran with aviation in his blood — his dad and grandfather were both pilots — Nancarrow started fixed-wing flight training when he was 14 years old at Red Baron Aviation in Goleta. Two years later, his father — then owner of Elephant Bar and a recreational pilot — died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Nancarrow devastated. Flying planes was put on hold.
However, in the past several years, Nancarrow has resumed flying, focusing on helicopters. “[As a kid] I noticed a lot of the pilots were always really stressed out, flying from one place to another. I noticed that the helicopter pilots were the most cheerful.” Copter pilots get to go home at night instead of staying in “Milwaukee overnight,” he reasoned.
This past summer, Nancarrow launched Nanco Helicopters, a one-man business that currently gives four to five tours weekly. Traveling the Gaviota coastline to the Carpinteria marsh area, tours glide over sites like the Bacara Hotel & Resort, Naples, and El Capitan. “People don’t realize there’s so much space; when you get up there, you see it,” Nancarrow said. He prefers showing natural landscapes to celebrity houses in Montecito. “There are a lot of complaints for people who fly in from out of town and fly low. … I know this community. I’m sensitive to flying neighborly.”
Nancarrow offers three customized tours in his mini four-seater copter — for which he took out a hefty loan — that range from $100 to $200. Roughly half of his clients are out-of-towners, and half are locals, he said, explaining he recently launched his ad campaign and has deals on Groupon and LivingSocial. “This is an industry where you don’t do it to make money,” he added. “If you want to make money, you become a stock broker or a real estate agent. But you fly helicopters because you love flying.”
He is well aware of the shock factor that comes with the double whammy of being a young pilot and a business owner. When asked if people take him seriously, he said, “I hope so. I try to come across as serious. I think when I sit down with people and talk to them, then they take me seriously. Being 24, you have a lot to prove. There’s more doubt … which is tough, but I understand.”
Five to 10 years from now is — literally and figuratively — up in the air for Nancarrow. “As long as I’m flying, I’m happy,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I always ask myself what would make my dad proud. And I know this would. That is part of the reason I do it.”