Helicopter Flight Training in Diverse Environments

Guest Article By Wayne McIntosh. Photos by Jon Davison.

This article was written by a graduate of MLH.  The opinions within do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mauna Loa Helicopters, our staff or management.

If you want to be a great pilot, I believe that you need to be comfortable flying in different situations, terrains, and weather conditions. Hawaii offers a wide range of landscapes. You can go from flying over the wettest spot on earth, Waialeale, to the second driest spot in the country, Kawaihae. On the Big Island you can fly from sea level up to 14,000 ft. This island alone allows you to fly in all climates except for the frozen tundra. The options Hawaii provides are limitless. This is why I chose Hawaii to do my training. My personal goal as a pilot is to show strength in diversity while flying. By telling you what the average day of flying entails, you can see what Hawaii has to offer.

Diverse Flight Training Environments

This particular day started off at Lihue Airport bright and early. I checked the weather, and as usual it was another beautiful day. Perfect flying conditions. We decided to go up and do some mountain training at the wettest spot on earth, the breathtaking Waialeale. We started our aircraft and took off at sea level. A short 15 minutes later and we were already at our location where the terrain turned to sheer cliffs from 2,000 ft M.S.L to 5,000 ft M.S.L. At this location we focused on training the real life scenario of strong winds arising and the power limitations at being at such a high altitude. These are the hands-on experiences of flying you need that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Within a short amount of time we were back to the Lihue Airport and everyone in the industry knows that time is money, especially in training. So after a quick refueling, we decided to perform a cross-country flight to Honolulu, Oahu. In this flight, we had to do an 80-mile channel crossing. We took off again and started to head east. Since the channel from Kauai to Honolulu is so vast, we had to make sure we used every navigation aid possible to make sure we made that crossing safe. Another real life experience that will far exceed learning from a book.

Once we reached Oahu, a whole new set of challenges arose. When thinking of Hawaii most people don’t realize the large metropolis Oahu provides. Now, as the pilot, I have to focus on the high amount of air traffic, and the large radio workload of flying in Class B air space. We then arrived at Honolulu International Airport. My instructor and I began to discuss the flight we would do in the city that night. As dusk fell, we then proceeded to the helicopter to begin our next adventure. As we took off, I had to deal with the strict instructions from ATC while flying in a Class B airspace. We did the shoreline four departure and were told not to go above 400 ft. This was one of the coolest experiences and by far the best view of the city I had ever seen. The scene was incredible, literally flying half a mile off the shore below the city skyline.

While flying over the city that day I thought to myself how lucky I am. In just one single day I got such a varied amount of training and was able to learn practical experiences that I will encounter later on in my career as a pilot. As you can see from just one day of flying in Hawaii you get the experience of everything from the higher altitude mountainous training, to challenging cross-country flying, and Class B airspace. This is ultimately why I chose training in Hawaii. It being one of the most beautiful places in the world doesn’t hurt either.

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