In The Skies Above Kaua‘i
Owner, Island Helicopters
Tell us about your business.
We’re a helicopter service and do aerial tours around Kaua’i. The helicopters can take you in close and into areas of Kaua’i pretty much inaccessible by any other means. You can get inside Waialeale Crater and you can hover where you can’t on an airplane. You see things that are very isolated in the most beautiful parts of the island. My wife, Bonnie, and I started the business in 1980.
What sets your business apart from others?
We have a new exclusive tour that goes into the interior of Kaua’i to Manawaiopuna Falls, better known now as Jurassic Falls. We are the only company that can actually land there, and have been for two years now. It took us about five and half years to go through the permitting process. We stop there for about 25 minutes and people get out and walk right up to the base of the falls, which are about 400 feet high. It’s just completely breathtaking from the ground looking up at the falls.
How did you get started in this business?
I’ve always loved flying, starting with airplanes when I was 15 years old. I also like flying helicopters and flew them in Vietnam while I was in the Army. And my uncle in Alaska had a helicopter business and I flew for him after I got out of the service. I came to Hawaii to run his business for seven and a half years before starting Island Helicopters.
How many employees do you have?
Right now we have a total of 20 employees. There are four pilots, plus myself. We have increased since the economy was in a slump. We had to really tighten our belts to keep all our employees at that time. But since we got our waterfall landing, we added two more employees.
What motivates you to get up and go to work every day?
I enjoy the business and love our visitors who come here. I like to talk to them and see where they’re from and what they do. Just flying around the island, you see something different every day – a rain shower will change the whole scenery.
Do you have a business motto or philosophy?
We like our employees. We love our job, we love our employees and we like to treat them right. They’re like family to us. Everybody gets along really well, and they all do the job that they are trained to do.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?
It is a very competitive business, so you have to stay on top of it all. That’s why we stay small. A larger company sometimes may not know what’s going on, but we can see everybody a lot easier and know about whatever problems might arise.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?
Being able to live in Hawaii. We have three kids who grew up here, Garrett (30), Kristin (27), and Gavin (24). Being able to have beautiful weather just about every day. Having a business that we enjoy. And it’s just nice getting up in the morning knowing that you’re going to have happy customers with smiles on their faces.
Have you ever had any accidents?
How do you measure success?
By enjoying what we do.
What are your plans for the future?
We’d like to keep our company small and continue flying people from around the world.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I really can’t say. Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to fly. It was my dream, and I’ve pretty much fulfilled it. I’ve never thought of doing anything different.
Open 7 days a week. 245-8588 firstname.lastname@example.org www.islandhelicopters.com