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“The best way to see the big island!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of TropicBird Flight Service

TropicBird Flight Service
Kona Airport, Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI
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Attraction details
Seattle, Washington
Senior Contributor
47 reviews 47 reviews
25 attraction reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
“The best way to see the big island!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 19, 2013

We have taken helicopter tours of the four big Hawaiian Islands but thought it would be fun to try a small plane this time. My husband is a private pilot so we contracted Tropic Bird to offer plane + instructor. We met with Terry who was awesome to fly with. He was very passionate about flying and the Big Island. I was worried I might be a big bored by the 2h30m flight but omg, so wrong.

This *IS* the best way to see the island. It was a little big cheaper than the helicopter plus we were able to control the flight plan more. Ie, see more of the volcano and whatever else we wanted. I wasn't bored for a second. I also felt very safe with Terry on board.

Visited September 2013
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14 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Top Contributor
72 reviews 72 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
“Don't miss the Island Adventure!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 19, 2013

We had originally planned a multi-island excursion but the weather was such that we were only able to tour north and south from the airport for a little over an hour. Intrepid aviator Terry was a terrific tour guide and very competent instructor. Even though we had been to Kona before, it was great to see things from an airborne perspective. Flightseeing from a 182 is much more fun than riding around in a tour plane wishing you were in the left seat! Highly recommend this for pilots regardless of experience level. Don't think twice! Just do it!

Visited June 2013
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Long Beach, California
16 reviews 16 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“Impromptu Kona Flight”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 3, 2013

My wife and I were in Hawaii on vacation this March and felt a little adventurous during our stay. I'm a PPL SEL out of LA Basin with about 150hrs in a C172 and a few in a C152. On our drive back from Hawi, I spotted Upolu airport so we decided to take the small detour down the road to check it out. It's a small uncontrolled airport on the northern tip of Hawaii. It's a gorgeous sight and recommend you to check it out if your around Hawi. We were fortunate to visit on a clear day and could easily see Maui from the field. The view inspired me to loosen my purse strings and fly the island.

I searched the web using my phone and found TropicBird based out of Kona. It might be the only flight school btw? On our drive back to Waikaloa we called up the school and left a voicemail. Mike, owner and an instructor, promptly returned my call and scheduled us for the following day. As a visiting certified pilot, I took the island flying course; you and a CFII fly the island after some ground work and weather convo. I chose the C182 since my wife and her friend were coming along. The total cost (airplaine's wet hrly rate + instructor time which is based off the hobs) was ~$750 for 2.5hrs. Yup, not cheap but if you compare what a heli ride or a caravan flight would cost, it comes out be a fair price + YOU DO THE FLYING! I have to state this again, YOU ARE PIC! I'm sure there are other reasons but this is why I spent all that money, time studying, practicing, reading. It's to have my own adventures as PIC.

FYI: Heli ($190 per person for ~1hr flight); Cessna Caravan ($400 per person).

Terry Way, CFII, was excellent. No messing around or lagging behind. Terry knew that I was there to fly as PIC so he addressed cabin procedures right away, he would take comm and I would take the yoke with a little VOR practice. We talked weather, planned out a route using dead reckoning, some VOR's, and the use of majestically beautiful landmarks. We walked over to the airplane, preflighted it, talked safety procedures, got ATIS, and away we went. The C182 looks and flies like it is well taken care of. Our course took us North to Upolu first since it was raining on the volcano/Hilo side. We flew around 1K ft and spotted several whales breaching and jumping about. We circled and enjoyed the show they put on. We landed at Upolo like a butterfly w/ sore feet. I'm proud of that given the x-winds. On our taxi back for takeoff, we spotted more whales breaching and putting on a show like they were on a Pacific Life commercial. This is a sight I will never forget and it will be a story I'll share w/ my pilot buddies for the rest of my life. I'm very happy that my wife was there to share it with me too.

The next point on our course were the Seven Sacred Valleys. We cruised at around 1K and saw many waterfalls and steep cliffs. To add to our adventure we climbed up to about 3K and flew straight down a valley going about 150kts. You def won't do that in a caravan or heli tour. After that we continued our loop and flew over Akaka Falls, Hilo and over the vent of the volcano. At the vent there were several heli's so look out for traffic and stay alert. Flying over lava was exhilarating but also humbling. Safety procedures be damned if you're at 3K (1500 ft AGL) and you have an engine failure. Anything happens while you're there, that's it. At least that's the way I thought about it. We also flew down to the Green Sands Beach and South Point before coming North over the Black Sands Beach and into PHKO. The finale to this great adventure was a centerline grease-job landing on an 11K ft runway. Terry was great, he did not strong-arm the controls but instead worked w/ you calling out a check list and working as a team not as a drill instructor.

Visited March 2013
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Friday Harbor, Washington
1 review
“Relaxing Afternoon”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

Had a great flight with Mike Lauro in the C-182. I signed up for the Island Flight Course which was about 30-40 minutes of ground and then 1.7 in the air. Coming from an ATP, Mike is very informative on the island and local procedures. It's amazing how fast and drastically the weather can change during the afternoons at the drop of a hat. It was also interesting to see the how distinct the change of scenery is from the windward and leeward sides. While I wanted to fly I also wanted to sightsee and take pictures and Mike was kind enough to take the controls when I wanted to open the side window and take photos. Seeing the humpback whales from the air that were in "town" from Alaska was a special treat.

Visited March 2013
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Mukilteo, Washington, United States
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Great Lesson, Tour in a Cessna182”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 24, 2013

I took advantage of the visiting pilot lesson/tour. Mike was an awesome and patient instructor during my first high performance lesson. The lesson was half flying, half tour, but you can do what you want of course. Mike was very knowledgeable about the area. We flew over Waimea to the NE coast. I plan to fly the southern coast with him on my nest visit.

Visited February 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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