How to fly your own plane around Hawaii
How to fly your own plane around Hawaii Honolulu Reviews
How to fly your own airplane through the Hawaiian Islands May 02, 2011
I love to fly. So much, in fact, that I’ve dedicated many weekends over the last few years not only getting my private pilot license but flying myself and friends all over the northwestern part of the US. So when I had the random idea to find a plane in Hawaii I could rent for a few weeks to go on an extended tropical flying adventure and use my license in a whole new way I, and my travel companions, were pretty damn excited.
The plan was to spend 1-2 days on every island with a public airport. Given that weather was an unknown we kept things really flexible in case we got held up a day somewhere moving everything on our itinerary back a day. We didn’t book any hotels or cars that might be non-refundable. Plan was to wake up each morning, enjoy the sun, relax and decide what we wanted to do next. Big focus on flying where we wanted, when we wanted, and taking a ton of awesome pictures. Worst case if the flying weather got bad a day we spend an extra day hanging out in Hawaii, exploring, drinking Mai Tais, and use one of our buffer days. Really no downside there.
What went really well:
• Rented from Anderson aviation in Honolulu. While old and beat from the sun the plane (a Cherokee 140) was cheap, easy to fly, and everything important worked as it should. The staff there seemed professional and had their stuff together. Split between the three of us it was cheap too – for the entire 11 days we spent hardly more per person on our private plane than we did for our shitty commercial airline coach seats from Seattle. It was obvious that all the plane rentals in Hawaii were primarily used for flight training but I don’t know why. If you are or know a pilot you have to try this.
• I had an itinerary planned ahead of time that took into account where our fuel stops would need to be and what order it made sense to explore the islands in. This way we always had double the fuel we needed and could feel comfortable routinely straying from our planned route to chase whales, look at dolphins, take airborne pics of manta rays, look at lava flows, beaches, waterfalls, and shipwreaks. And we did all of this – AWESOME!
• Molokai and Lania rocked. Having your own plane really gives you the ability to explore these islands like very few people can. Molokai especially had the most amazing reefs, sea life, cliffs, and waterfalls to see from the air then almost anything else.
• The weather for us was easy. There were a few spots where rain was so heavy we couldn’t legally fly through it but it is completely different than back home. Very localized – fly a mile in any direction and you can get around it.
• We made a point of flying every mile of all 750 miles of coastline in the islands. Highly recommended. It doesn’t take that long to do and every island is a little unique. Came back with 1,800 pictures between the 3 of us.
• I was really worried about flying (especially taking off and landing) Hawaii famously high wind. Turned out to be a cakewalk. Even when landing with crosswinds 2-3 times what I’m used to in Washington state it is a steady wind. It was actually significantly EASIER than the lighter gustier winds back home because they were so constant.
What I learned:
• I’m lucky to have a lot of awesome friends. I wasn’t prepared for the number of people who, when finding what I was doing, was “bummed” that they couldn’t be one of the ones to go. Who knows, maybe they can get a chance next year?
• We paid through the nose for rental cars on the less traveled islands. Molokai and Lanai cost us over $160+ per day. I think if we had booked Molokai in advance we would have saved a lot.
• Be obsessive about planning your approach and arrival procedures into Honolulu international’s class B airspace. Use Bing or Google satellite maps beforehand to make sure you know EXACTLY where the checkpoints are – I got chewed out a bit by the air traffic controllers when I had trouble figuring out which of the several visible golf courses in the area was the Army/Navy golf course mentioned in the procedure. That said, the other class C, D, and E airports were a cakewalk.
• If only spending a day or two at each island be aggressive at only picking a few things
• On the big island lava flows watch and follow the tour aircraft. One of them was kind enough to tell/show me where to go over the radio to see the active lava vent – we did steep turns 500ft above a bubbling cauldron of molten lava and stayed clear of the TFR. Very cool!
I highly, highly, highly recommend this trip. Apparently we may have been the only ones to ever rent a plane and do exactly this. I don't know why this hasn't been done a zillion times by every middle income pilot - it was reasonably priced and epic. If you are a pilot and want to do something similar let me know and I'm happy to give you tips in detail.
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