Story by John Giordani | Photography by Ryan Siphers
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“How much do you weigh?” asked the Sunshine Helicopters agent. A month’s worth of questionable nourishment played out in my mind. Feeling certain that my waistband would be looser by the time of my flight, I lied. The truth is I didn’t know my exact weight; my scale would look like a dusty relic—if I knew where to find it.
Nine days later, reality weighed in. Photographer Ryan Siphers and I had signed up for an air-and-land combo—we would soar above Haleakalā and Hāna, then take a road trip back to Kahului Heliport. As I hopped on the scale at check-in, I was fully prepared to place the blame for the extra pounds on the backpacks, cameras, cooler and other paraphernalia we’d brought. I needn’t have worried. Turns out that, like other small aircraft, helicopters just need to balance the weight to ensure a smooth flight—the source of said weight being the passengers, pilot, baggage and fuel.
Sunshine Helicopters has been skillfully managing this balancing act for thirty-two years—ever since Ross Scott and his wife, Anna, started it with two helicopters they leased and eventually bought from an aviation company Ross had worked for in Alaska. Sunshine has since grown into a statewide company offering helicopter tours of Maui, Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i Island, and Kaua‘i. They’ve even spanned the Pacific, with an outpost in Las Vegas offering tours of the Grand Canyon.
It’s a sublimely clear morning and I’m feeling excited (okay, and maybe just a little nervous) about taking my first helicopter ride. To increase the adrenaline factor, we’d drive back on our own, in a vehicle from Barefoot Buggy.