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First Helicopter Ride

29th May 2013

Aerial Photography the Easy Way

For forty years I’ve traveled extensively for work, mostly by plane. For some, traveling is an exciting part of the job but for others it represents an unpleasant necessity.

For me, the “good” part is that I’ve accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to reach the 1 Million Mile Club. This means for the rest of my life I can travel on United with certain pleasantries. The “bad” part is that to achieve this milestone, I’ve spent way more than a full work-year(2000+ hours) on their aircraft – not counting the time at various airports. But since my occupation was related to flying, all of this traveling affords me a way to keep in contact with the aviation industry. Along with the miles, I’ve accumulated a sizable collection of aerial photographs. As a window seat passenger, I’ve enjoyed viewing and capturing some magnificent sites passing by at a one mile every six seconds clip.

Lately, I’ve scaled back on business trips. However, While vacationing in Hawaii last week, I couldn’t resist the chance to view the lava flows from the amazing Kilauea Volcano by air. With all the time I’ve spent in aircraft, you’d think that this would be just another routine trip. But this being my first flight by chopper, I was quite excited.

Our helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350 seats six plus the pilot. This aircraft has a generous amount of windows thereby offering a very good view out the surrounding.

We were happy to learn that our pilot was quite experienced. Before migrating to the Big Island, she flew Grand Canyon tours from Las Vegas for several years.

The flight begins at the Hilo airport on the east side of the Big Island (Hawaii). We pass over stands of macadamia trees. Macadamias are the main export of the Hawaiian islands.

It’s a 12 minute flight from Hilo to the volcanic coast. A few minutes before, we pass over a dreary, smokey, grey landscape. These are a few of the notable features of Kilauea Volcano.

Upon reaching the coast, our pilot maneuvers the helicopter so we can have an off-shore view of the volcanic activity.

The smoke is the result of 2200-degree lava emptying into the ocean. Since 1983, the lava flow has added about 500 acres of new land to the island.

We’re told that the lava solidifies very soon after it reaches the water.

The red areas of this photograph are the hot lava pouring into the Pacific.

These two hot spots are lava tubes which have poked their way through the caldera to the surface.

These are spent (expended) lava tubes which have crusted over.

Of course it’s possible to photograph the same sites from a small private aircraft. But shooting from a helicopter is certainly a superior way of accomplishing the same. With a skilled pilot such as ours, we were able to easily maneuver to locations that would require multiple passes with a private plane. And unlike a helicopter which is able to hover, an aircraft introduces 80 knots or more of shake to the photos. I’m happy to have taken the tour and capturing an unforgettable set of travel photographs.
Written by Arnie Lee