Makani Kai Helicopters, founded in 1988, is Oahu’s oldest, largest and most experienced helicopter tour company. The firm started with a single Hughes 500 helicopter and quickly became known for its personalized service and scrupulous attention to safety.
Owner Richard Schuman purchased the firm in 1995 and upgraded the equipment to the Eurocopter AS350 A-Star, considered the standard of the air tour industry. The sleek jet turbine offers unparalleled views from its extra large windows, and coddles passengers with Bose CD quality sound, air conditioning and a DVD recording system. A second A-Star was added to the fleet in 2003.
Makani Kai Helicopters has remained accident and incident free throughout its 20+ year history, and its rigorous flight and safety training continue to be the company’s first priority. Makani Kai is the first Oahu operator to become a member of the Tour Operators Program of Safety, a qualification that requires an even greater emphasis on safety. Makani Kai also is a recipient of the prestigious Platinum Safety Award by the Helicopter Association International. The company employs only multi- thousand hour veteran pilots and has a dedicated safety officer.
The company is also certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a Part 135 air carrier. This is an important distinction. Some tour companies make due with a Part 91 certificate; the Part 135 certificate is harder to get and requires adherence to higher flight and safety standards.
“The extra trouble is worth it,” says Richard Schuman. “It doesn’t matter to me if we’re the largest or the most profitable helicopter tour company…but it matters a great deal to me that we are among the safest in the islands.”
This philosophy is evident in the pride and dedication demonstrated by the company’s workers. From the time guests are greeted and picked up in Waikiki until the moment they are returned to their hotel, they are guaranteed an extraordinarily memorable experience.
The company’s guest log is filled with glowing comments about the tours,
"This is the best thing we did during our stay in Hawaii..."
- Merle Johnson, Albuquerque, New Mexico
"We had a blast. We'll be back next summer to do it again..."
- Phoebe Alcantara, Butler, Pennsylvania
- Oishi Takada, Nagoya, Japan
What differentiates Makani Kai from other tour companies is the fact that it employ pilots that must pass Richard’s standards. “I would rather fly myself than let just any pilot fly our customers around the island” – “Also, I am with my pilots every day and make sure they pass on the knowledge and the Aloha Spirt the customers deserve”. These experienced veterans know the island like no one else and provide passengers an outstanding and informative tour experience.
The combination of first-class personnel, top equipment, and a passion for safety and excellence puts Makani Kai Helicopters in a class of its own.