Remembering Jack Harter

  • Courtesy of Casey Riemer

    The majestic, multi-colored Napali Coast beckons as seen from one of Jack Harter Helicopters’ aircrafts.

  • Courtesy of Casey Riemer

    Jack Harter, standing, once again delivers Santa Claus to Kauaians in a Bell 47G5 helicopter.

  • Courtesy of Casey Riemer

    Jack Harter readies for takeoff in the cockpit of one of his helicopters in this undated photo.

Charles (Jack) Harter, co-founder and president of Jack Harter Helicopters in Lihu‘e and the originator of helicopter tours on Kaua‘i, died on April 1, 2021.

Harter was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Dec. 26, 1931, where his life was defined by nature and adventure, a strong dose of creativity and a zest for hard work and excellence.

He earned his fixed-wing pilot’s license at an early age, and bought his first airplane at the age of 18. Along with flying airplanes in his early years, he was a parachutist, a Hollywood stuntman and a smoke jumper in California. He also flew tours around the Space Needle at the Seattle World’s Fair.

In 1950, he left college and joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Korean War. As an infantry officer, he led his men up Heartbreak Ridge, was wounded twice, and earned a commendation for his valor.

After his service in the army, Harter spent some time exploring the Pacific on the sailing vessel Ramona. Upon returning to the U.S. from his sailing adventures, he learned to fly helicopters from a friend in California, working as a helicopter refueler to earn training time. His love for helicopters had begun, and endured throughout his life.

In the early 1960s, wanting to establish a helicopter service in a beautiful location, Harter learned about the island of Kaua‘i. His earlier companies were Kaua‘i Helicopters, Garden Island Helicopters and Hawai‘i Helicopters International, in the lean years while the industry was being established and sightseeing by helicopters was slowly growing in popularity.

Jack Harter Helicopters was founded in 1975 by Jack and Bev Harter, and operated from the grounds of the old Kaua‘i Surf Resort for many years.

As a recognized official pioneer in the helicopter industry in the U.S., he was renowned for his dedication to safety and quality, his extensive knowledge of helicopters, and for being a wealth of knowledge about the island of Kaua‘i that he shared with many visitors and residents.

He dedicated many years to rescue work and utility-charter services when his helicopter was the only source for activity of that kind, numerous times doing rescues on a voluntary basis before an organized system was established by the state and county.

He was also a poet and a writer of two books of short stories, poems and children’s stories that were the joy of his daughters and grandchildren, and two novels, one of which was the original “Quarantine” that became a television special. Several of his letters and poems were published over the years in The Garden Island.

He is survived by his wife Bev, who will continue to run Jack Harter Helicopters with its four MD500E and one Airbus AS350B2 helicopters, as she and Jack have done for 45 years.

He is also survived by daughters Nancy Harter of Maui and Suzanne Harter of Australia, and stepdaughters Donna Dearing of Hawai‘i Island, Shasta Rose of Spring, Texas, and Cynthia Riemer of Kaua‘i, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Many residents over the years, many gone now, have regaled his family with stories of good that Harter did for them and the island with his charters and many rescues.

“Jack Stories” are welcomed by his staff and family, if anyone would like to contribute to his memory.

They may be sent to the company office at 4231 Ahukini Rd., Lihu‘e, HI 96766, by email to, or submitted to the company’s website.

A memorial to Harter will be held in the near future.

  1. Ken Conklin April 9, 2021 7:38 am Reply

    Jack Harter was a true Renaissance man whose curiosity spanned many fields. I was surprised about 20 years ago when this man, whom I had never heard of, sent me emails asking insightful questions about Hawaiian history and then branching off to topics in Philosophy. One email exchange led me to write one of my best creative essays, entitled “Nothing.”
    Best wishes to Jack Harter, his family and friends.

  2. Esther Jurasek April 11, 2021 5:06 pm Reply

    My husband and I feel proud to have shared bread with Jack and his family. He was smart, kind and loving. He was a hero and is a legend. We will miss him but we know he is with God. We hope to share bread with him again.❤️😍

  3. Daved Kohls April 11, 2021 7:00 pm Reply

    I am so sad to hear of his passing.
    These are my memories of Jack, my dad’s good friend whom he fondly spoke of often.
    The Harter site obituary speaks of Jack learning to fly from a friend in California in the 1950’s.
    This may very well have been my father. Dad always loved teaching people, including me, how to fly those choppers.
    Though I was very young, I do have vague memories of Jack and my dad being friends in those days both at work and in visits to our house.

    My father, Edward Kohls (known to most as “Buddy”), was one of the earliest commercial helicopter pilots, learning to fly in 1948, a year before I was born.
    Mom and dad’s travels took them to Kauai in 1949 for a couple of years, where dad fell in love with the tropical beauty and splendor of the Hawaiian island.

    Moving back to the mainland, he became the chief pilot for Calicopters Inc., when we settled in Stockton, California from the early 1950’s to 1970.

    When he retired from Calicopters, mom and dad moved back to Kauai in 1971 where Jack put him to work as one of his pilot’s in his touring company.
    Although dad enjoyed flying tourists around and showing off the island, he primarily loved being an agricultural pilot.
    So, he bought his own Bell 47 in 1974 and founded EDKO Agricultural Helicopters in Lawai.

    When my dad died on July 5th, 1987, his wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes spread over the ocean.
    Jack contacted my mother and suggested to her that he would be willing to fly us into the crater of Mount Waialeale at Kauai’s center where we could drop his ashes into the heart of the ‘Bali Hai’ that that my dad loved so much and never wanted to leave… to be forever a part of the island.

    A few days later, this is exactly what we did, as Bev and Jack picked us up and flew us into the very center of the crater, spreading his ashes along with a large bag of flowers.

    Jack wrote and published a beautiful obituary and poem about my father in The Garden Island on August 12, 1987.

    I will be forever grateful for the consideration that Jack and Bev showed for my father and his family.
    Thank you Jack for the love and friendship you always shared with my dad.

    May you rest in well deserved peace.
    Sincerely, Daved Kohls.

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