Maui helicopter academy

Conditions couldn't have been better for a photo shoot for the Maui Helicopter Academy. I made my way toward the hangar and was met by Eric, manager of the day-to-day operations at the academy and also one of the Certified Flight Instructors. The hangar is located on the opposite side of the Maui Airport, across the airstrip, off Kuhea St.

The classroom

Inside the hangar you'll find two helicopters, a Schweizer 300CBi and Robison R44 Clipper II. Both helicopters were created for teaching purposes to allow novice students to practice flying.

the flying lesson

The Maui Helicopter Academy helicopter educators are eager to give the necessary tools for exploring corners of the earth most don't get to see. From magnificent Hawaiian waterfalls to lush rain forests, these are only a few spectacular sights to see when you take lessons. Maui Helicopter Academy believes that aviation is for everyone. At the academy, you are privileged to learn from Eric, who has been flying for about 11 years and teaching for 5 1/2 years.

the invitation

After Eric finished showing me the two helicopters he uses for flying lessons, he brought me over to the side of the hangar where this old Cessna, two seater prop plane, rested. Eric informed me that he had just received a call from a local fisherman, requesting him to do a fly over off the north shore of Maui to check for schools of fish. He then turned to me and asked if I wanted to join him, not only for the flight, but to get my photos for the shoot. After fighting through my flying fears and worries, I managed to say, "yes".

the flight

On the runaway, prior to takeoff, Eric, my pilot, assured me that everything would be fine and there was no need to worry about flying in this single prop aircraft. He reassured me that I was in good hands. I was on the verge of having a panic attack. I could hear the air traffic control tower give use the ‘all clear’ and soon we were speeding down the runway, lifting off over the ocean.

I was fine, I repeatedly told myself. The takeoff wasn’t so bad. I immediately started taking pictures. I had my 105mm and my 50mm with me. Soon the fear of crashing in a small airplane dissolved as my mind was in engaged in photo mode. Taking pics, changing lenses, searching through my viewfinder. That was until after about 15 mins, the pilot took a hard left turn and it felt as if my body were parallel to the ground. He straightened out and soon I was upright, headed in a direct line towards Mauna Kahalawai. Those mountains were big. I felt so small. We were so high up. The only thing keeping me from falling out is a tiny latch on the door next me. Panic began to set in. I put my eye back on the camera viewfinder and started to take pictures. The panic began to dissolve and I was okay again. 15 mins more and we made our way back to the airport. Our wheels soon touched the ground. I was still okay.

the landing

This photo shoot was mainly planned for the aircraft hanger, the airplanes and about the workers. No one said anything about going up. When Eric offered me the opportunity to go up, I just went for it and I’m so glad I did. Thank you Eric for one of the best experiences shooting for an amazing local Maui business!