I was lucky this summer to travel to Kauai for the first time. It quickly became one of my all time favorite places on Earth. I always try to find an opportunity to fly while on vacation, to experience new people, and new planes, in a completely different environment.


A few months before our trip, I sent an email to Wings Over Kauai asking if they’d be willing to do an instructional flight in one of their Cessna 172s around the Island. Our family took a flight in the back of a helicopter around the Island, but I wanted to make sure I could log some time there myself! Wings Over Kauai is an air-tour operator located out of the Lihue International Airport, that operates Cessna 172 Skyhawks and Gippsland G-8 Airvans. The majority of their flights are purchased as an hour-long flight circumnavigating the island, but specialized flights such as instructional or photo flights are available.

Upon arrival, I met with Bruce Coulombe, the founder of Wings Over Kauai. He was happy that I had opted to fly with him as an instructor over the island, here’s why: Kauai is home to one of the busiest light aircraft routes in the world. Throughout every hour during the daytime there’s a constant stream of helicopters and planes circling the island. I’m not kidding when I say that you’ll see 10 helicopters fly past within a few minutes of you sitting on the beach. Because of this, there are special non-published rules, altitudes, and frequencies for pilots flying around the island. They often will have private pilots like myself come, rent an aircraft, and fly around the island in a cavalier fashion, creating a MAJOR safety hazard.

There’s a reason seeing Kauai from the air is so sought-after — it’s absolutely incredible. For me to see it from behind the controls made the experience even that much more special!

Lihue International Airport is a Class D airport located on the Eastern side of Kauai (the Western coast is a protected preserve, the only way you can see all of it is from the air). Planes as small as C172s, and as large as 767s, frequently land at the airport. Bruce handled the radios as I took the controls, since he was much more familiar with the area.

Below is a video of our takeoff from LIH:


The Island of Kauai was amazing to see from the air. Below are pictures from our flight around the whole island:

Upon returning to Lihue, Bruce took to the radios again, with me at the flight controls. A few minutes later, we were back on the ground at LIH. I was happy with the smooth landing… Bruce even applauded! The video is below:

Screenshots from our route are shown below (via CloudAhoy and my XGPS160):

Route Overview

Route Overview

Thanks to Wings Over Kauai and Bruce for the amazing flight! I can’t wait to come back!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

With Bruce Coulombe

With Bruce Coulombe

About The Author

If you want to become a pilot, I want to make your journey just a little easier. I'm a First Officer for Envoy Air, one of the largest regional airlines in the world, and have partnered with industry leaders like the U.S. Air Force to teach about various aviation careers. For a full bio, click the "About" tab above. Use the "Contact" tab to shoot me a message.

3 Responses

  1. Bradley

    Amazing flight. I’ve lived on Kauai all my life and have a love for aviation. I am currently at embry riddle prescott flying in there program and can’t wait to get my private pilots so I can go on amazing adventures just like you.


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