By Joey Gerardi
EAS Adventure Trip Report: Hana, Hawaii
If you have read my articles in the past, then you know I love out-of-the-way airports, airlines, and aircraft. I would do almost anything to explore a new city or fly on a unique, rare aircraft type. So in the second article in my series, which I call “EAS Adventures”, I will start the trip at a larger airline hub, fly out to an Essential Air Service community and return to the same airport I started at, usually on the same aircraft that brought me there. What is the point of this you ask, if you have some time to kill at a hub during a long layover or if your flight gets delayed excessively, try venturing out to an EAS airport and seeing somewhere new during the downtime.
All locations in this article are located in the state of Hawaii.
For this EAS Adventure, I will be starting at Hawaii’s second busiest airport, Kahului International on the island of Maui, and flying to the EAS community of Hana which is also located on Maui. Hana is the smallest of three commercial airports located on the island of Maui, with Kahului Intl. being the largest, and Kapalua on the west end being the second biggest. I will be flying this adventure on Mokulele Airlines, whose flights are now operated by Southern Airways Express, on an 8-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravan.
I started my day in Honolulu in the early morning flying a Unique Connection Series trip report through the EAS community of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i, the trip report of which can be found HERE. Then I took a flight from Moloka’i to Kahului, followed by my flights out to Waimea and back which were the fourth and fifth flights of the day, the article of which can be found HERE. My flights out to Hana and back will be my sixth and seventh flights of the day, the most flights I had ever taken on commercial aircraft in a single calendar day, that record of which I have broken since that trip. Hana will also be the third EAS airport I will have been to in a single calendar day, another record that I have broken since that trip took place.
The ‘Road to Hana’ is a popular tourist attraction, and is a winding switchback road between Kahului and Hana, GoogleMaps says the drive is only two hours long, but locals have told me it usually takes five-to-six hours depending on how fast someone is driving. The flight to Hana only takes 10-minutes, so while you don’t get to drive along the switchbacks, you can spend your time enjoying Hana to the fullest and make a day trip. Or, if you are an AvGeek like me, just fly there and back in less than an hour for fun.
Just like most EAS communities, they receive two round-trip flights a day under the government-funded EAS program with Southern Airways Express, but they operate the Hawaii flights under the Mokulele Airlines banner and brand.
As mentioned previously, these flights to Hana are my sixth and seventh of the day and I had already been to the counter at Kahului previously so they knew I was coming. For people who aren’t coming off other Mokulele flights, it is recommended you arrive at least an hour prior to your departure time. Even though I did come off another Mokulele flight, they did ask about my body weight again so they could seat me properly and safely in the correct row as they use smaller aircraft that are more affected by weight.
After getting off my flight from Waimea my connection time was roughly three hours, which I spent plane spotting on a small hill adjacent to the commuter terminal.
The aircraft that would take me to Hana and back is an 8-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravan that carries the registration of N852MA, the same tail number that carried me on my first two flights of the day through Kalaupapa, and is only fitting that the same tail number finishes out my day with the airline.
Going to Hana you’ll want to pick a seat on the right side of the aircraft as you will be flying along the north side of the island and is best for the views. With only three of us going to Hana, everyone chose a seat on the right, as when they assigned seats they only told us what row you need to sit in and you can choose which side.
Startup and taxi out to the runway and takeoff were simple as the Mokulele flights use the smaller runway which is located adjacent to the commuter terminal. Not even a minute after takeoff and we had already reached our cruising altitude of 500 feet, a nice cruising altitude to see the sights on this short flight to Hana.
Not much to explain as it was such a short flight, they had a magazine and route map but I spent my time looking outside at the views.
As it was getting to be evening the sun was a bit of an obstacle in terms of pictures, but despite that, even a bad picture is a good picture considering how close we were to the ground.
The larger windows of the Cessna 208 make this plane perfect for sightseeing no matter where you are in the cabin.
it wasn’t long before I could see the small airport out of the left side of the aircraft, and we had begun our quick descent into Hana.
We touched down in Hana at 5:26 P.M. local time, after a short 11-minute flight, we then turned around and backtracked on the runway to the small terminal.
As there is no TSA, the next group of passengers was waiting along the wall that was next to the small terminal building. Similar to Kalaupapa, the pilots act as customer service agents here in Hana.
This was the 39th EAS Airport I have visited, and the 3rd in the state of Hawaii with me now having visited all of them in this state. Just like every EAS airport I have seen, the terminal has its own unique flare, and here in Hana, it fits perfectly into the lush background scenery.
The wall next to the terminal is made from Lava Rocks from right in the Hawaiian Islands, another feature adding to the unique aspect of this airport. Within the building contains bathrooms, a water fountain, and a small check-in desk, but the pilots couldn’t find the key for it on their giant key ring so it was never opened.
This is an important part, when flying on Mokulele or any small airline for that matter, make sure to talk to the pilots about which route the flight will be taking to your destination so you can select the side for prime viewing opportunities. Almost every single time the flight back to Kahului from Hana will take the north route, but today was a VERY rare treat, as we flew the longer way back to Kahului, flying around the south side. I talked with the other four passengers on the flight, most of them have taken the flight many many times before, and they told me they have never flown around the south end of the island and I was very lucky to be getting this chance.
99.9% of the time when they take the north route back to Kahului the left seat is best for the flight. But due to the very rare route we were taking, I sat on the right side for this flight. Most of the other passengers rushed on and choose left seats as they thought we’d be taking the normal route back, so it is always best to ask about the route before assuming.
The cruising altitude for the flight back was 950 feet, higher than the first flight but still low enough to see the detail of the land below us. We also flew along the shoreline, but slightly over the water so the shore was visible for the entire flight back.
This is another great example of how Mokulele Airlines’ flights are not only meant to get you places, but they are great for sightseeing as well. The Haleakalā Observatory was visible to passengers facing the island for almost the entire way around, including on the flight there and back. It was such a fun aspect, seeing the white observatory peak from almost every aspect of the flight since I left Kahului.
As we got closer to Kahului the land did change to a brownish-black color as we flew over the lava runoff area, a nice thing to see up close but even more fascinating seeing the expanse of the runoff from above.
Before we knew it, the land changed back to lush green and we slowly began to make our descent into Kahului
We could see the runway out of the right side as we turned onto final, and we touched down on the runway at 6:05 P.M. local time.
The flight back to Kahului took 20-minutes, almost double the flight there, but it was completely worth the extra time getting to fly around the entire east end of Maui.
We took off from Kahului at 5:15 and got back to the same place at 6:05, meaning from the time we left Kahului, until the time we got back it was only roughly 50-minutes. It is just another EAS Adventure that is definitely worth your time if you have a rather long layover at Kahului Intl. or need an AvGeeky activity to do. Plus, we took the long way back to Kahului, meaning most flights out to Hana and back will take less time. The pictures just don’t do the beauty of the flight justice and are truly a sight to behold flying so low along the shores of Hawaii.
It was a fun little adventure, and despite the fact I didn’t leave the airport grounds in Hana I still got to see some amazing sights along the way especially with the south route returning. EAS flights, and especially those in smaller unpressurized aircraft like these, offer some amazing sightseeing opportunities along the way to your destination. So next time you have extra time at the airport or if your flight gets delayed by a couple of hours at a hub, look for an EAS adventure, you may just like what you see.
A video account of my trip to Hana can be found below