When the November weather starts cooling in the Great Northwest, it's often nice to head to warmer shores for a bit of sun and fun. When you add gorgeous tropical scenery to the mix, it makes sense to add a flight to the adventure. Instead of sitting in a helicopter or a multi-seat aircraft as a passenger, I searched the available options on Kauai for piloting a light aircraft myself. I found out that Wings Over Kauai offered an instruction/tour flight for two at a very competitive price in their Cessna 172, allowing me to fly the aircraft myself and take Mary along in the backseat so she could experience the gorgeous in-flight island and ocean views.
The Wings Over Kauai operation was started by Bruce Coulumbe with his Cessna 172 in 2004, operating from the commuter terminal at the Lihue airport. The operation has been successfully growing over the years, now flying multiple daily flights in the 172 and also a six-passenger Australian-made GA8 AirVan. I wanted the more personal experience of the Cessna over the Airvan, and Mary and I arranged for a flight early in the week to accommodate weather issues. On our first flight attempt on Tuesday, we drove through a heavy shower en route to the airport, and the mountains looked obscured. We met Bruce, and he concurred that the weather wouldn't allow for a full island tour, so we re-scheduled for later in the week.
Friday dawned clear and sunny, and stayed that way the rest of the day. We met Bruce at the Lihue commuter terminal, got a pre-flight briefing and donned life preservers, since a good portion of the flight was planned to be over water. Bruce basically let me taxi, takeoff and fly the entire flight, except when I let him fly so I could take photos! We took off from Lihue's runway 3, and made an immediate turn south along the coastline. Although Kauai often gets extensive cloud cover over its mountainous region, today was exceptionally clear. I flew just off the coast along the south resort areas, with Bruce providing commentary on the island, its history, and a lot of background on the agricultural aspects of the island, given Bruce's previous background. We climbed and cruised over Waimea Canyon, where Bruce vectored me around for stunning views of the Waipo'o Falls and the entire canyon.
Bruce then had me head towards towers on the edge of Barking Sands Missile Range, then let down over the water as we turned northbound for stunning views of the rugged Na Pali coast mountains. The contrast of the blue waters and greens and reddish browns of the hills were striking. As we approached the northwest portion of the island, I spied my favorite snorkeling location at Makua (or Tunnels) Beach. Bruce gave more vectors to fly down the most scenic portions of the northern ridges, and into the canyon just east of Mt Waialeale, one of the rainiest spots on the islands. As we headed back to the Lihue airport, Bruce vectored me around for a photo and sightseeing opportunity over Wailua Falls, then let me fly the approach and landing back on runway 3.
If you visit Kauai and want to add some personal flying to your adventure, I highly recommend Wings Over Kauai! Bruce's extensive knowledge of the island, in addition to his instructional flying skills, make for an extremely enjoyable way to experience Kauai from the air. Mahalo, Bruce!