How I piloted a plane in Hawaii

September 20, 2017

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If you had the opportunity to fly a plane in the next 2 hours, would you do it? This was me during my first solo trip in Hawaii where I really wanted go all out and make it count.

I was only there for 4 days, and I was already on my third. I looked online for activities to do in Oahu and low and behold, I landed on “Flight Lesson & Sightseeing Airplane Adventure (from Honolulu Airport)”, pun intended. You mean I can fly a plane without a pilot license? I quickly looked up availability dates and the next available slot was in a couple hours.

Honestly this was never on my bucket list. It’s not that I never would have wanted to fly a plane, but I never thought it would be possible unless I shelled out thousands of dollars and hours of training. But there I was, behind the wheel up in the blue Hawaiian skies having the time of my life! And here’s how.

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In search for activities to do, I landed upon two very interesting activities: scuba diving and flying a plane. I almost dismissed them because I’m not PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified nor do I have a pilot license. But curiosity got the best of me and as I read their descriptions, I learned that I can do them without any prerequisite. Till this day, I don’t know how that’s possible but it was. Unfortunately I couldn’t go scuba diving. Due to the fact that I would be flying back home within the next 48 hours, I didn’t want to risk getting decompression sickness due to pressure differences at extreme depths and heights.

Fortunately, there was nothing stopping me from flying a plane!

Considering how short my trip was, and how I just discovered this adventure, I booked this really last minute. Like, day-of last minute. One minute I was looking for something do to like a walking tour, maybe snorkeling, maybe a drive out to a different part of the island, the next I’m mentally preparing myself with the fact that in a couple hours I would be up in the air,  behind the controls.

The tour package included pickup and drop off to my hotel. Once I arrived in the lobby of the tour operator, I was offered tea and candy and asked to watch an introductory video about the experience I was about to take part in. Since it’s a Japanese company, the video was in Japanese with no English subtitles, but I took pleasure in watching the reactions of past amateur pilots.

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When it was my turn, I met with my instructor who began filming my experience on a Gopro, and started capturing my excitement as he led me to the plane. When I hopped inside, it was hot! Can a sistah crack the window a lil bit, or nah? I guess it wouldn’t be the best idea seeing that we would be high up in the air.

He passed me a headset so that we can communicate over the loud noise that would be produced and instructed me every step of the way, from what paddle to press, what lever to pull, how to steer and everything.

He let me drive to the runway, and I was feeling it. This was cool. Then he tells me we need to wait for the other planes to clear and I was like, “cool, cool”. And then he tells me how to start accelerating to take off. I said, “Say what?” Haha I literally assumed that he would be doing the take off, while I just flew once we got in the air. But nope, he had me do it all.

It was the type of plane where the passenger side had controls as well, that could override any action I did so I guess I had nothing to worry about, I guess…

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And just like that we were in the air! And still alive! God is good!!! While in the air, the view was amazing and beautiful. He acted as my tour guide showing me various landmarks like Waikiki, Hanauma Bay, Kailua Beach, Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Pineapple Plantation, Pearl Harbor and more. He even showed me a hidden waterfall in the mountains that can only be seem from the air. It was breathtaking and surreal. At one point  I wanted to take some pictures (and selfies, duh) so for a few minutes, my instructor took over the controls on his side as I took some “pics, or it didn’t happen” type of photos.

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Sure enough, we were above downtown Honolulu and I was told to start the descent. Of course, that will be my final role because he’s not gonna let me land, right?

“Ok, prepare for landing, pull this, twist that, lower that, GENTLY, and push this, HARD”. I didn’t believe he was instructing me to land.

I think I closed my eyes, said a prayer, somehow got us back on solid ground! Thanks to my fearless endeavour, I was rewarded a certificate and a log book. This one hour in the log book counts as an hour of flying time should I decide to pursue a real pilot license.

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The face you make when you unexpectedly yet safely land a plane

I honestly did not expect to perform take-off and landing, especially since the activity description states the following: “Expert flight school instructors will take care of the take-off and landing, but once the plane reaches altitude, you will take over the controls“. I do not regret it one bit. I loved that I was given the opportunity to do it. If you end up doing this activity, you can check with the instructor before hand to avoid surprises.

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“Hang loose”

Normally I don’t like paying for video and photo keepsakes because they are often overpriced but this time was different as it is an experience I never want to forget. I had the option of buying a 1-hour DVD of my experience, which was filmed on their Gopro for $79 USD. It would take them a few days to prepare it and so they offered to mail it to my hotel for free. Unfortunately I was going back home the next day, so they said they can ship it to my home address for an extra $15 USD, so I paid $94 for the DVD. It was well worth it.

Tip: Dress comfortable and light, since it is very warm inside the cabin.

Depending on the option that you take and on various factors, the price ranges between $169 USD and $509 USD. I opted for the following, which cost me $299 USD

  • Flight Lesson & Circle Island Sightseeing [Single Engine Piper Archer]
  • Adult/Child (Age 10 & over)
  • 60 minutes of flight time.

Book here: Flight Lesson & Sightseeing Airplane Adventure (from Honolulu Airport)

What crazy spontaneous things have you done while traveling? What do you think of solo traveling? Let us know in the comments below.


♥Giving my Hawaiian friend a quick birthday shoutout! Happy Birthday @tnpetaia! She’s such a sweet and encouraging girl!♥



  1. Comment by Tyler pitts

    Tyler pitts Reply September 23, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    Great story! I’ve taken a flying lesson before and it was so fun. Didn’t think about it as a touring option tho. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Comment by Terri-Anne (@seeforoneself)

      Terri-Anne (@seeforoneself) Reply September 24, 2017 at 8:03 PM

      Thanks! It’s amazing how easy it was to do. I just had to sign up and show up.

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