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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or submitted to the company’s helicopters-kauai.com website.
A memorial to Harter will be held in the near future.