I consider myself a thrillseeker—not quite armchair, yet not to the extreme. So this Door’s Off helicopter tour with Magnum Helicopters is just right.
First off, I’ve got to say our pilot Jim is first rate. He got the tour going smoothly with a few instructions on what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do while in the air. For example, don’t stick your arm out of the helicopter because it—and you—just might get sucked out due to the hurricane-strength winds circulating just outside. Nah, just kidding…well, kinda. However, cameras, smartphones, headphones have been sucked out into the sphere. P.J. O’Reilley of Makani Kai, who set up the tour for us, says the headphones were never returned, but luckily, the smartphone actually found its way back to its owner—it fell into Kaneohe Marine Corp property where someone picked it up, returned it to Makani Kai and they were able to contact its owner who was still on vacation. A happy ending since no one was hit on the ground and the owner got his phone back.
At any rate, empty pockets, strapped-on cameras and a jacket (it gets CHILLY up there!) are crucial while up in the air. And as mentioned, there seriously are no doors on this helicopter. The wind will embrace your entire body as you take in magnificent views no matter which seat you’re in. Looking for adventure? You’re in for one!
Taking off from the Makani Kai helipad is so cool, but as we get higher, the air becomes a little choppier AND louder. Far below, the warehouses, streets and hard working folk in the Kalihi industrial area pass beneath our feet—it’s pretty neat to be having this much fun while everybody’s at work! Although I am technically working; just lucky I guess. : )
In minutes the beautiful Pacific Ocean stretches out in a smooth blue plain edged by Waikiki Beach and hotels. Magic Island, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head fly by in the most awesome way! Okay, so I trust Jim and love this ride and all, but I make sure my feet are firmly anchored into the tiny corner created by the floorboard and Jim’s chair, as well as make sure my shoulder is wedged inside the door so the hurricane-like winds won’t suck me out. Jim explains that turbulence, especially around mountainous areas is normal, and as much as I sometimes want to yell, “Fr$#%^in’ A!” because I feel zero gravity in the pit of my stomach, I instead laugh with the excitement of experiencing the flight. Seriously, more people should do this.
Hawaii Kai comes and goes, Hanauma Bay, then we’re on the windward side where Jim takes us above the closed Stairway to Heaven trail. Lo and behold if there aren’t five people on the trail! All illegal trespassers for sure, but heck, Jim waves at them and they wave back. I would wave too, but I have my camera in one hand and refuse to let go of the strap in the other.
There’s certainly one view that always impresses—and even more so from the air—the serrated cliffs of the Koolau Mountains. Knowing some of its history from the time of King Kamehameha I and the Battle of Nuuanu in 1795 and seeing the smooth modern freeway structure is a striking statement to how far we have come.
Sharing tons of facts and fun tidbits about the island while in flight, Jim is the perfect guide as his jokes allow me to relax my grip on the strap. Soaring above Laie, Kahuku’s wind farm, and the endless green mountains and valleys eventually leading to the beaches of the North Shore, I can appreciate just how beautiful Oahu truly is. On weekdays, I experience the morning traffic on our freeways then duck into the office until it’s time to return home in the evening traffic where I’ll sometimes catch a glimpse of a lovely sunset behind the Waianae mountains. That’s my daily grind.
However, Jim and Magnum Helicopters have reminded me of how special my home is and how truly blessed I am to live here.
Before long, we’re headed back into town flying above my daily route; this is a fun way of seeing things. It’s a bummer, but we touch down to pavement and leave Jim who gets to take the next group of soon-to-be-enlightened visitors up in the air. How much fun is that?
A HUGE shout out to Jim, P.J., Magnum Helicopters and Makani Kai Air for this awesome aerial experience above my island home. Doors off and all! Visitors and residents should definitely experience a helicopter flight—like me, you’ll certainly gain more appreciation for our lovely island. Be sure to check out our video below!