Being busy relaxes Frédéric Fekkai. That’s why the godfather of the $400 haircut and eponymous luxury hair care brand took up helicopter flying 11 years ago, versus, say, airplane flying, which, he says, doesn’t require as much focus.
“Flying a helicopter is 10 times more difficult than flying a plane,” he says. “It is very demanding on your ability to pay attention. You have to pay attention to the flight, the instruments, the weather. There are many obstacles. But that’s very relaxing for me. Maybe because there’s no way to think about anything else.”
This story first appeared in the March 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It takes 70 hours of flying to become a certified helicopter pilot, which turned into a four-month process for Fekkai, because “back then I was working much more”—as in before he sold his company to Procter & Gamble.
“I always loved flying and the idea of flying, and a friend of mine was taking lessons,” he says of how he got his start. “It became an addiction. It’s such a great feeling, being up in the air in a machine at a different altitude. You can go over a river, a farm, and see the world in a whole different way.”
Fekkai particularly relishes the 360-degree views. “A plane is great, but you are very high and you only see the sky. In a helicopter, you see everything, and you can stop on the property of a friend or land on a beach somewhere.”
He’s flown to Gunnison, Colo., and Palm Springs, Calif. A favorite route is along the Hudson River, checking out West Point, N.Y., and admiring the multimillion-dollar estates. During the summer, he likes to stop at dozens of spots along the Northeastern seaboard with his family and friends onboard. “We can go to Montauk [N.Y.] in 40 minutes and have lunch, some lobster, and then come back.”
Fekkai owns an AStar 350 Eurocopter, which he customized in a silvery charcoal gray metallic paint. The exterior is devoid of the usual stripes and lines that adorn most choppers; only his machine’s “tail number” appears—in bright yellow. The helicopter’s interior is black leather and can accommodate up to six passengers. It set him back $3 million.
Despite his prowess in the air, Fekkai never flies without a pilot. “You have to plan a little bit, but it’s too dangerous to go without one. I want to be safe. This is a hobby for me.