Ups and Downs in Kauai

I wish I could resist bad puns, but it just isn’t in my nature.  This is a post about taking a helicopter tour on the island, but the ups and downs were in the service from Sunshine Helicopters, not the flight.

We had mostly rainy weather this trip, and today was no exception.  That didn’t bother anyone, the choppers fly close to the hills, close to the clouds, it was all beautiful.  The flatter, rounder light was better for photos, too.

They asked me to check in at 8:30 for my 9 am flight.  As I was parking the car, at 8:30.05, my phone rang making sure I was coming.  That seemed a bit unnecessary.

After signing releases and paying the $239 fare, it was time for the safety briefing, which is sort of important, except for when they had to tell us that the pilot appreciated gratuities.  We were also informed about all the souvenirs we could buy, and how we would be posed for photos before the flight that we could buy on the way out.  I hate it when they turn everything into a sales opportunity, all the while pretending it is very important and vital.

One vital part of the briefing was about the “aloha bag”, to be used in case of air sickness. We were informed that it would be in the pouch attached to the front seats. I wanted to get a photo of it just because I liked the euphemism “aloha bag”.  Alas, Sunshine Helicopters remembers all the sales pitches but doesn’t bother to actually check the aircraft for the sometimes needed bags.

The chopper arrived, the last group got out and we were loaded up.  There are 4 seats across the back, and I got one of the middle ones.  I think the big boys get the center seats to keep the aircraft balanced.

Five minutes early we took off–I was impressed, because nothing ever starts on time, much less early.

Our pilot was Bogart, an obvious veteran pilot sporting a long white ponytail.  That gave me confidence in his flying, but led to the major problem I had with the experience.

Bogart is burned out, I think.  He’s been doing this so long he doesn’t give a damn.  The flying was fine, the narration was an unintelligible mumble. Helicopters are very loud–everyone has to wear earmuffs, and the sound is piped right in to your ears.  I could hear the faint strains of Chariots of Fire as a sound track, but had very little grasp of what Bogart was murmuring about the scenery.  I was not amused.

The advertised 48 minutes later, we touched back down.  It may not surprise you that I failed to leave a tip.

The flight was a joy; Kauai is beautiful and mostly inaccessible except by air.  I’m glad I went.  I wish Sunshine Helicopters cared as much about the quality of the product they provide as they do about getting everyone there on time.



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