HONOLULU Pat Magie has flown above some amazing scenery, from
Canada to the Caribbean, but he claims that Hawaii has the most
beautiful water he’s ever seen. That’s mighty high praise from a
pilot who has logged 30,000 hours in seaplanes, and it was enough
of an endorsement for me to climb into his small flying boat for an
aerial tour of Oahu.
Magie and his wife, Debbie, own and operate Island Seaplane
Service, running 30-minute and one-hour flightseeing tours out of
Keehi Lagoon. He uses the same seaplane as Pan Am’s amphibious
China Clippers that flew from California to Honolulu and beyond in
the 1930s and ’40s.
After standing in countless airport lines in recent years, I found
it refreshing to simply walk out on Magie’s small floating dock,
buckle up next to him and take off within a matter of minutes.
Balancing ever so subtly on one float so as to minimize drag, Magie
eased the craft into the air with such skill that I hardly even
noticed the ocean spray around us.
Compared to helicopter tours with constant rat-a-tat rotors, the
seaplane was peaceful and, as Magie noted, a lot safer.
“We can land in water in case of engine failure, and we can glide
if necessary,” he assured me.
Since I was sitting next to the man named National Seaplane Pilot
of the year in 2000, I breathed easier.
From 1,000 feet up, the seaplane introduced me to views that
offered a whole new outlook on Oahu. Wearing headsets with
mouthpieces, Magie and I shared easy-going conversation along the
Heading east, we passed over Diamond Head, flying low enough to see
people waving from the 760-foot summit. Views of Koko Crater and
Hanauma Bay offered eye-opening lessons in the island’s fiery
volcanic history. Magie had fun pointing out little-known
landmarks, like a large compound on the Windward Coast.
“There’s one of Michelle Pfeiffer’s beach houses,” he said. “If she
knows I’m coming, she likes to come out and wave her bikini top at
The tour provided the perfect vantage point for viewing Godzilla’s
massive footprint, created for the movie of the same name when it
was filmed at Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch. It turns out that Hollywood has
discovered Magie, who not only flew a seaplane for “Godzilla” but
for several other movies and television shows. Ever the good sport,
he even donned a wig and dress in order to serve as Catherine
Zeta-Jones’ stunt double while flying a plane in “The Phantom.” His
seaplane base took its own star turn in the recent Adam
Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie “50 First Dates.”
Magie recounted his colorful career, including paddling a canoe
from northern Minnesota to Hudson Bay in his youth. During that
2½-month adventure, he and his companions shot over some rapids,
lost their supplies and were forced to live off the land eating
“That experience gave me a real urge to see more of the North
Country, and learning to fly was the natural solution,” he
A pilot’s license opened doors to such adventures as leading rugged
backcountry camping tours in Alaska and running risky, life-saving
medevac missions. In 1996, Magie launched Island Seaplane, the only
one of its kind in the islands.
“It just didn’t make sense that Hawaii didn’t have seaplane tours,”
His instincts were right on. From his seaplane, Oahu never looked
so good to me before, from the effervescent reefs of Kaneohe Bay
and the big winter waves of the North Shore to the meticulous
crisscross of pineapple fields in Central Oahu. It’s a great
overview of the island, especially for clients on their first day
As we made our approach back to the lagoon, we followed the same
route as the Japanese planes that bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, a
goose-bumps moment if ever I’ve felt one. Magie made sure I could
see the outline of the sunken USS Arizona in the harbor, then
treated me to the singular thrill of landing on water.
While other 74-year-olds might consider retirement, or a more
grounded profession, Magie continues to take people out on daily
tours above Oahu because, as he put it simply, “I love to fly, and
we have the prettiest runway in Hawaii.”
|Island Seaplane Service|
85 Lagoon Dr.
Honolulu, HI 96820
The half-hour flightseeing tour,
passing over Waikiki, Diamond Head, Kahala, Hanauma Bay, Kaneohe
Bay and Pearl Harbor, costs $99 per person.
The one-hour flight amplifies the above with an aerial tour of the
North Shore and the central plains of Oahu, for $179 per
For a minimum of 12 people, Island Seaplane packages its aerial
tour with a sunset pupu party on the floating dock for $99 per
The firm’s Meal Deal, combining a seaplane tour and island-style
dinner on the dock, is available to groups of 20 people or more for
$129 per person.
Complimentary van service is available from Waikiki hotels.
Island Seaplane pays travel agents 30 percent commission.