Helicopter advice

I am going on a helicopter tour of Kauai this coming weekend. Having never been on a helicopter, I am somewhat unclear what to expect. You have to take into account the fact that just recently I flew on a propeller plane for the first time. There was fear for many years about small planes.

First, will it be much colder up there than on ground? Lihue will be about 75 degrees. Should I wear something other than shorts, t-shirt and windbreaker? I plan to do the do-rag bandana
thing to keep my hair from flying all over the place.

Second, should I expect a lot of dipping, swerving and otherwise radical movements of the helicopter itself? If there is cloud cover, will they go a bit lower so we can see more clearly? If it’s windy at ground level, will it be much worse aloft?

I think I’ll be alright, as long as Carrot Top or Hunter S. Thompson aren’t piloting.

Take ear plugs! I’m sure the pilot will give you some, but take 'em anyway. The flight should be reasonably bump free (pilot doesn’t want to be clearing your ejecta from the windshield). It shouldn’t be too cold though. Most (not all) helicopters have doors ‘n’ stuff these days.

Fortunately many of them can be removed! :slight_smile:

If you’re going on a helicopter tour then you’ll most likely be in a turbine (jet) powered helicopter, so the doors will (unfortunately) have to stay on. Helicopters like to fly at about 500 feet off the ground a lot of the time, so the temperature shouldn’t be too terribly different in the air. It’s usually cooler for me, as I get a breeze from the door opening.

The pilot may do a lot of “dipping and swerving”, as well as coming close to ridges and whatnot. Relax. It’s part of the experience. Remember that the pilot wants to get back just as much as you do, so he’s not going to do anything dangerous. Helicopters have a choppier ride than airplanes – they vibrate a bit. Airplanes tend to have a more “floating” movement, like an ocean swell. You’re much less likely to become airsick in a helicopter than in an airplane.

It might be fun to fly with Hunter S. Thompson.

If you are a rock star, stay the hell away!

Fagjunk Theology: Not just for sodomite propagandists anymore.


Use aviation headsets - these block noise and usually also have an intercom function.

Using plugs probably won’t hurt you unless you were to ascend to an altitude before inserting them. If you were then to descend and remove them you would be in a world of pain (and possibly permanent ear damage) from the pressure change.

I recently read an article on this very subject in an aviation magazine (don’t ask me for a cite - it’s buried in a pile with hundreds of other magazines in my office). So although damage is unlikely, my advice is don’t chance it because the risk is severe.

As for the OP: I have lots of airplane experience, but have only been in helicopters twice. The first time was the Grand Canyon tour. To me, it felt like a boat ride. The pilot was very gentle, and helicopters generally go slower than airplanes to begin with.

If you’re going to be entering or exiting the chopper while the blades are rotating, make sure your “do-rag” won’t fly off into the rotor.

Should be a fun trip. I’m jealous!

My wife and I did that same thing on Kauai on our honeymoon last August.

We went on the doorless helicopter, which was great. They even landed at a private waterfall where we ate lunch and went for a swim.

With the doors off it was definately chilly. I wore a long sleeve shirt and pants and was just a bit chilly. If yours has the doors on there should be no problem.

As others have mentioned the pilot will likely fly a bit uh, “dramatically”, I don’t want to give away any surprises, but don’t worry, they don’t screw around or do anything dangerous, and the good pilots will always warn you when something unsual will happen.

Ditto the advice about skipping earplugs, they will provide you with intercom headphones, and they often play music synchronized to the flight.

You will have a terriffic time, this was by far one of our favorite parts of the trip. My wife is sort of a scaredy cat about things like this but she loved it

I got to go up in a Huey last week for work, and I gotta tell ya, it was a blast!. (Got great pictures, too!)

It may be a little colder up there, so wear some warmer stuff, even if it is in Hawaii. Also, make sure everything is either buckled, tied, fastened, chained, or bolted down. No sense in taking a camera along if you drop it into the ocean from 2,000 feet up on the way back.

Not like I’ve ever done that or anything.

Yeah, about those cameras - make sure they’re secured to something. A good, sturdy neck strap securely fastened to the camera, then run a seatbelt/harness strap through the neck loop. Or ask the pilot for advice.

I’ve dropped a LOT of stuff out of small planes and helicoptors over the years, but I never lost anything, I was always able to reel it back.

Sounds pretty damned unlikely - I worked in the North Sea for 7 years, where a helicopter is just a glorified bus ride to work. I must have chalked up a good few hundred chopper rides in that time, and earplugs were standard issue.

Probably depends on the type of earplugs, and how tight a seal they make in your ear.

Also, helicoptors don’t normally go up to high altitudes, at least not to the extent that airplanes do.

They make earplugs just for airplanes:


I went on a door-less chopper and I enjoyed it, even though the “no-door” thing was a little disarming.

My friend, however, went to Hawaii with the guy she was seeing behind her boyfriend’s back. They crashed. (Instant Carma’s Gonna Get You!) She had a broken pelvis and other problems, but nothing life threatening. They gave her lots of money.

The article I read assumed the following:

  1. You go climb to altitude.
  2. Earplugs are then inserted that make a tight seal.
  3. You descend to the ground and then remove them.

The author (who did this and suffered serious ear damage) said he could have saved himself by climbing back up to altitude, removing the plugs, and then descdending.

As I said, it’s unlikely. But good to know all the same…