Lebanon is in the midst of one of the deepest depressions in modern history according to the World Bank. Hyperinflation has caused the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90 percent of its value in less than two years and more than half of the population has plunged into poverty.
The capital, Beirut, is now the third most expensive city in the world, according to Mercer’s 2021 Cost of Living Survey.
In the midst of this economic crisis, the population and institutions of the country have been forced to improvise new and unconventional ways of generating additional income. The distressed military has begun offering helicopter tours to tourists in an attempt to boost morale and raise the cash needed for maintenance.
Lebanese tourists and citizens alike can sign up for 15-minute trips on the army’s website, which is advertised as a way to see “Lebanon … from above.” R44 Robinson “Raven” helicopter tours, generally reserved for student pilots in their first year of training, depart from Rayak and Amchit air bases and offer panoramic views.
It is particularly telling that the military has resorted to moonlighting as a tour guide, given that the military has sustained Lebanon’s stability since the end of the civil war in 1990. Despite significant military support from the United States, the economic crisis has made it difficult for the military maintain its budget for equipment, maintenance and supplies.
Last month, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun warned that the economic crisis, caused in part by decades of government corruption and waste, would soon lead to the collapse of all state institutions, including the military.
Lebanon was without a functioning government for 13 months after the massive explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people and destroyed large swaths of the city, until a new cabinet was finally formed last week.
Foreign currency cash reserves have plummeted, causing fuel, electricity and medicine shortages.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese military is targeting about 1,000 hours of pleasure flying this year. Each trip will cost $ 150, which means the program could generate a profit of $ 300,000 for the military by the end of the year.
A Lebanese soldier now earns just $ 90 a month, less than the nearly $ 850 before the crisis.