Hang gliding in Maui proved to be the highlight of our trip! We arrived at the Hana airport to meet Armin, an FAA-certified flight instructor and tandem hang gliding pilot, who was going to be teaching us how to pilot a motorized hang glider, commonly referred to as a “trike.” The aircraft featured tandem seating (much like that of a motorcycle), as well as dual control from front and rear seats, and a backup ballistic parachute system, which acted as a way to insure our safety. The micro-light aircraft featured a hang gliding wing and weight shift operation, very much like a traditional hang glider, but was powered by a reliable 912cc 4-cycle Rotax aircraft engine. This type of trike offered comfort and convenience, allowing us to enjoy more flight time high above Hana.
The sensation – how would I describe the sensation of piloting a trike? Wondrous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking – to name a few descriptors. Simply put, it is the closest thing that a human being can come to simulating pure flight. Somehow, flying any other way suddenly seems synthetic and artificial. In piloting a trike, there are no windows or doors, no restrictions to feeling the wind on your face or blockades to keep you from touching the clouds with your fingertips. In that moment of lift-off I understood why Armin became a pilot and flight instructor – to offer that pure experience and exhilaration to others as they (safely) learned how to fly.
Halfway through our hour-flight, I eased into a calm bewilderment, a stunned intoxication with nature. I snapped into a sharp vigilance when Armin asked me to steer. He instructed me to touch the handle grip, and I was able to navigate the trike myself. He claimed that I had natural skill, which gave me the confidence to navigate several wide turns, hovering over booming waterfalls. We began to make the climb to Mount Haleakala, up past the summit, to an elevation of 10,000+ feet (above sea level). The clouds tickled my cheeks and chilled my fingers as we rose to the top of the volcano. Once above the summit, he pointed to the switchback trails on the backside of Mount Haleakala and the crater that sat along the volcanic spine. It was stunning and there were no words.
As we began to descend, he announced that he was going to shut off the engine, which would put us into a graceful glide, down past the mountains, and onto the runway. We soared over small villages and neighborhoods, and Armin pointed out Kris Kristofferson’s mansion, which looked like a tiny, wooden block surrounded by a jungle of green vegetation. Undoubtedly, we hovered above Oprah’s 63-acre property in Hana as well.
Armin pulled the front handlebar down firmly as we came in for the landing on the Hana runway. What I expected to be an abrupt, bumpy landing became a smooth glide onto the ground and into the hangar. The whole experience at Hang Gliding Maui was thrilling, and while it was the end of the lesson for me, it was only the beginning for my husband, Alan.
Alan, who had accumulated over a dozen hours of flight time (piloting a plane) began his flight lesson with Armin. In flight, Alan asked Armin about stalling issues. In response, Armin simulated several stalls and demonstrated how to recover control of the trike. Although a bit envious, I hope to experience such an endeavor next flight lesson. They sailed above the coastline and over the waterfalls near Hana.
We bid farewell and best wishes to Armin, and soon thereafter pledged to return. Both Alan and I are looking forward to our next lesson with Armin, where we will be occupying the front seat during flight. We look forward to all that he has to teach us and the anticipated euphoria that awaits us in the front seat of the trike. Please enjoy!
For more information about Armin at Hang Gliding Maui.
NOTE: All blog posts, articles, and photographs are the intellectual and creative property of Melissa J. Koziol. Thank you for reading!