Kaua‘i has a new flight school

LIHU‘E — A new flight school is now operating at the Lihu‘e Airport. The company is offering an essay contest for free flight time to draw interest.

Fly Kaua‘i subsidiary Kumulani Aviation is offering air and ground instruction classes for students to earn their private pilot’s license. By the end of the course, students will have a handle on FAA knowledge and the tools to master the aircraft.

Students will have completed at least 40 hours of total flight time, including 10 solo hours. “Most students complete 50 to 55 hours,” Kumulani Aviation flight instructor Nick DuBay said.

 The school offers instruction for instrument ratings and upgrades to commercial and transport pilot, and certified flight instructor.

It also offers sign-off instruction for tail-wheel and high performance aircraft, biennial flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks and aircraft rentals.

As an owner-operator since 1989, Kevin Britt is one of Hawai‘i’s longest-running tour pilots still offering daily flights.

“Having flown all around the state, I think the best experience most definitely is Kaua‘i,” Britt said.Other flight schools on Kaua‘i have not succeeded, but Britt said this one should for several reasons. In his three decades of touring experience, Britt has strong ties to the Hawai‘i aviation community.

“It would be impossible to start from scratch here because the space is not available,” Britt said. “I also have a lot of accounts for parts and fuel and the things we need to keep the school working.”

The school is set up in a hanger office with quick access to the runway. Britt had a lease and said there is no other space available.

“Here, we have the hangar and an air conditioned flight school office,” said Britt. “We can bring the student in to a comfortable and quiet learning environment.”

DuBay came on board in February and the school started last month. He was an instructor and manager of a Seattle flight school, where he has been flying since before he was old enough to have a driver’s license.

“I always wanted to get to Hawai‘i somehow and couple it with my passion and teaching. There is no better combination for me,” DuBay said. “The visual beauty of this place, the unique weather and geography make it an awesome place to learn to fly.”

Students should have a passion about flying, which will help them overcome any obstacle to their dream, DuBay said.

A small school at a quiet airport is an ideal setting to tailor instruction to the student’s needs, DuBay said. he also said the school can be flexible with work schedules.

There are some requirements; students need to get medical approval with an FAA representative before flying solo or earning a license.

DuBay said it’s not an astronaut physical — its more like getting a physical to play sports in school.

Here or on the Mainland, DuBay said the aviation community tends to be isolated. The barriers are about economy and stereotypes that flying is something only other people can do.

“There is definitely an intimidation factor, but anyone who graduated from high school and can drive a car can fly a plane,” DuBay said. “You don’t need to know more than basic arithmetic.”

Some students go through ground school and then take their time with compiling enough hours for their license. DuBay said it is also possible to complete the course and be ready for licensing over the course of a summer.

An average student will fly two to three times a week for an hour at a time and complete a couple hours worth of homework with briefings before and after each flight.

In-air flight instruction is $210 per hour and students spend approximately $9,000 by the time they complete the course and earn a license, DuBay said. Earning a license flying the Cessna 182 will qualify the pilot other single-engine civilian aircraft under 12,500 pounds.

A quiet airport means that an hour’s flight time will be spent mostly in the air and not waiting on the runway, DuBay said. They are marketing to neighbor islands about the advantages of completing flight school on Kaua‘i.

Britt started his first flight school in the late 1990s after buying a Cessna 172 to work a one-year government contract. When the job was completed, he partnered with an instructor and ran the course out of the hanger until insurance costs tripled and he shut down.

To reach out to the community, Tropical Planes is having an essay contest. The idea is to find a way for youth who want to fly but haven’t seen past the barriers yet.

The flight is a chance to talk to instructor-pilots who can tell then about flying for recreation or an occupation.

The grand prize is a 30-minute flight for two in the biplane, a $250 value.

Second-prize is a one-hour flight lesson at the controls of the Cessna with the instructor. The prize can be divided by as many as three people, who will alternate in 20 minute flights between Lihu‘e and Port Allen.

To enter the contest, write a one-page essay, around 500 words, on the following question: “Describe your passion for aviation. Why would you like to learn how to fly?”

Send your reply by June 4 to Kumulani Aviation at 3651 Ahukini Road, Lihu‘e, HI 96766. Or, email your reply to tropical.biplanes@hawaiiantel.net.

Make sure to include your contact information. Youth should keep in mind that a parent or guardian would need to approve their flight — although perhaps they can join them.

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