The helicopter that we flew in was Interisland Helicopters flagship MD 500. This design is also commonly referred to as the Hughes 500. This type of helicopter was originally designed in the Vietnam War era and has since been retrofitted for many different uses in the military, well as in many different civilian industries. The aircraft that we flew in was painted green camouflage and the were doors removed. The outside as well as the inside were impeccably clean. The spartan interior was simple, but comfortable.
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Travel Blog #94 - Doors Off Helicopter Flight With InterIsland Helicopters
Throughout my life I have had many opportunities to experience helicopter flights around Hawaii. I have been on helicopters on all of the major islands, so I feel that I can legitimately say that the flights on Kauai pack more into them then they do anywhere else in Hawaii. Throughout the entire flight we were constantly seeing new things around each and every corner. The excitement never stopped (or was even subdued) throughout the whole flight. The girl next to me had a look of awe on her face the whole time, and the couple that sat in the front seat was also had a great time (check out their testimonial at the end of the video). I think that the excitement levels were not only elevated by what we saw, but they were also elevated by the fact that there were no doors on the helicopter and there was nothing between us and the ground besides thousands of feet of air!
You would think that having hundred plus mile an hour winds rushing by you would make for an uncomfortable ride. I was pleased to find out the MD 500 helicopter was really quite comfortable to ride in. I think the best way to simulate the winds and the ride of the helicopter would be to go for a ride in the back of a pickup truck with your back seated against the cab facing the rear bumper of the truck. You can feel the wind going by, but you're sheltered from the full force of the wind by the cab of the truck. In the helicopter the wind did come in the sides a little bit but it was mostly blocked by the wall that separated the first row and the second row of seating in the helicopters' passenger cabin.
The sights that we saw were absolutely incredible. We saw the 5 sisters waterfalls, the Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the Napali Sea Cliffs (over 3000ft tall), Kalalau Beach, the Hanalei Bay... and we even managed to sneek into the "Keyhole" of the island where we could view the wettest place on earth. Throughout the flight we saw some amazing things and I was able to take some amazing pictures.
Some advice on photography on open air helicopters: I brought along a Canon DSLR with a very wide 18-250 Sigma zoom lens on it. This is a long telescoping kind of lens. During the flight I extended the lens when zooming, and the tip of it went into the hard wind near the door of the helicopter. I only tried to zoom in on a couple of things and because of the extending nature of the lens and I think that it might have got slightly damaged from the wind. Upon landing, I could definitely feel a sticky spot in the zoom ring when extending or retracting the lens that could have easily happened because of the high wind environment the lens was exposed to on the edge of the cabin. I think next time I will bring either a fixed lens or a zoom that has purely internal motion with no extending action. I will also focus more on keeping the camera further inside the cabin. For the most part the majority of the shots that I took were at a pretty wide angle and if I had the range I would've gone even wider then my 18mm on the Canon cropped sensor would allow me to go. Unless your going with a two camera set up, I think you might prefer to use a wide angle lens throughout the flight. Changing between lenses mid flight is something that I would not recommend trying. I think that the smaller size factor of a point and shoot camera is something that makes the point and shoot option worth considering as well. Regardless of what you bring, just make sure it has a strap because inter island helicopters requires one on all passengers cameras.
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