Oahu from the Air

The island of Oahu has some of the most spectacular terrain. You can explore everything  from blue green bays full of coral reefs and sea turtles to some of the most stunning, lush mountain peaks. While many prefer to do this up close, others choose to see it from the air.

Oahu from the Air

My husband has always wanted to fly. When we first began dating, he used to talk about how much he enjoyed a flight  that he had recently taken in an ultralight. Locally, small aircraft and ultralight enthusiasts abound. On Oahu, even more so. What spectacular country to explore!

paradiseairHe contacted Paradise Air and scheduled a flight for himself in a motorized glider. “We have a flight early Friday morning,” he told me.

“We? Where are we going on Friday from Honolulu?” He gave me a sly smile and said, “I booked a flight on a glider, like an ultralight. You can come too if we set it up.”

I don’t mind flying on airplanes, but when it comes to open craft, I prefer to stick with things on the ground… like picnic tables or beach towels. Even cars with convertible tops. Yes I know there are far more vehicle crashes than aircraft, but it helps my ‘false sense of security’ so I’ll stick with them and keep my feet on the ground.

My husband, however, is not so easily deceived. I knew that once he got into that plane he would be hooked. I had no idea how badly.

Paradise Air is a small mom & pop operation, owned by husband and wife team Tom and Denise Sanders. The small hangar is homey, and Denise greets all who come with a smile and a hug.

We arrived just before 6am for his 6:30 flight. We didn’t need to come quite so early, but having already dealt with heavy traffic through Honolulu, we left extra early to give us enough time to get there. Denise’s directions were concise, and we quickly learned why they advise folks not to rely on GPS to get there.


Tom began instruction as soon as we arrived, telling us about his planes, his photography, and a bit of why they do what they do. In case you’re wondering, they do it because they absolutely love being in the air. I also suspect them a bit of being adrenaline junkies, considering another hobby of theirs is base jumping!

Officially, instruction began when he filled out the waiver. He said with a laugh, “Well I just agreed to give them my life and everything I own.” I replied, “No, you just agreed that you won’t take everything they own.” It was good for a laugh, and Denise said she wants to add that to their website. 🙂


Every flight is an instructional flight. Each student may earn flight time toward their Sport Pilot Certification, if they decide they want to pursue it. If not, just frame the time certificate they give you at the end, and tell your friends about the cool flight you took in Hawaii.

Tom began with basic safety, and they zipped into flight suits, headsets and helmets. As the sun crept up over the horizon, they were ready to go. My husband was more than ready. I actually began to feel just a bit envious of him, as part of me really did want to go… but the part of me that has a hard time looking down from a tall bridge was still speaking louder in my brain. I kissed him goodbye and away they went.


Let me say here that I’m really glad we have life insurance, AND that I’m even happier that I didn’t have to try to find that policy. 🙂


These sport aircraft, nicknamed Trikes, are dwarfed by the small personal planes on the tarmac. They do have an advantage over plane though, because they can take off and land on much shorter runways. Once they get up to speed, they lift practically straight up off the ground.


Their flight was longer than Tom had planned, because he was so enjoying it that he wanted to keep flying. They even spotted some whales while they were out over the ocean! They both came back pretty excited about that. They’re hard to see in the photo, but one can be seen near the tip of the arrow shown.

What you should know before you go:

1. You can’t bring your camera, so plan to buy the photo/DVD discs. The quality is worth the cost.

2. Denise suggests that you don’t drink coffee or eat anything that may cause upset stomach prior to flying.

3. Be prepared to have an awesome flight. A little turbulence may make you nervous (because you are essentially sitting there in a lawn chair with a motor on it) but it’s awesome.

4. Be prepared to fly it. Unless you specifically say you don’t want to, Tom will have you take over once he knows you understand what to do (and what not to do.)

5. Tom will shut the motor off. This is a glider, after all, and you (or Tom) will be able to steer as you coast along on the air currents.

6. Feel comfortable knowing that they have years of experience and love what they do. They love teaching others as much as they love flying themselves.

7. The views are unbelievable. Take it all in!

Finally, be prepared for the aftermath of the flight that you or your loved one is taking. If they are anything like my husband, it won’t be the last one. As for mine, he’s looking forward to getting his Sport Pilot’s license, which may lead to buying a little plane of his own. Tom recommended an instructor in our hometown for him to contact.

And if you give a mouse a cookie…

If you do end up contacting Paradise Air for a flight while you’re visiting Oahu, tell them you heard about it here! I don’t receive anything for the referral, but I’d love it if they knew we sent you. 🙂

Leave a Comment