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Flying to Molokai
by Diannek

I have to admit it, I'm a very reluctant traveler, especially if I must fly. I don't think that's an unusual feeling, but most of us don't whine about it, we just buy our tickets, pack our bags, take our seats, and hope for the best. Most of the time the trips are routine with just the usual hassles that we've all come to expect, including lost luggage, missed connections, bad food, and irritating traveling companions. Ah well.

Once in a while, something unexpected comes along. That was what happened the first time we flew to Molokai. The air shuttle we took was called Air Molokai (not to be confused with Molokai Air, a somewhat larger airline that we took the second time we went to Molokai). We had a difficult time finding their small hanger located on the fringe of the Honolulu airport. When we arrived, the crew didn't say much to us but we could tell by the way they were looking at each other that we weren't their usual passengers.

They were having a hard time getting our baggage aboard the rather small plane. They had to take some stuff out that had already been loaded. Then they repacked everything. Then they asked us how much we weighed. Then they conferred again. Then the pilot showed up and looked at some paperwork. Then they took all the baggage out and repacked the plane again. Gulp! We were finally ready to leave.

Molokai air strip
I took this photo as we were preparing to land at the Molokai airport.

I held my breath as we took off as if that would help. No problems. Our flight took us past Waikiki and Diamond Head. We flew low. I could tell because I was sitting right in back of the pilot and had a clear view of the instruments. Dale was in the co-pilot's seat. Gulp! 

It's a short flight, maybe half an hour. On a good day there are no bumps or any other flight hazards. The pilot had little to say. Dale asked him how many times he made the flight. Hundreds, maybe thousands, was his answer. The landing was also routine. I had had nothing to worry about after all. 

As we were collecting our bags, I noticed a woman standing by the baggage counter, clearly in distress. Apparently her TV had gotten bumped so that our baggage could make the flight. She was pissed and I didn't blame her. The crew promised her it would be on the next flight, later that day. 

Months later I was reading the Maui paper and noticed an article about the Molokai Airport. Apparently it's a very tricky landing when the winds are up or the weather is particularly bad. There have been accidents. But the local folks don't want to improve it. They are afraid that if the runway is extended, then more tourists will arrive, which could spoil the "rural remoteness" they enjoy. It's a trade off they are willing to accept.

We also visited the Molokai Leper Colony at Kalaupapa. We flew in on
this even smaller plane. The pilot treated us to a tour of the cliffs that made it a prison for the lepers so many years ago. It was a spectacular flight without incident, but the pilot couldn't resist showing us the remains of another plane that had crashed on landing at the small Kalaupapa airport. The plane's carcass remains where it landed, a fitting reminder of death on this beautiful and remote place.

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