Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Honolulu to Molokai (Ho’olehua)

Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Honolulu to Molokai (Ho’olehua)

The sound of driving rain had been keeping me awake all night, so it wasn’t a big shock to throw open the curtains at 5am and see Waikiki glistening under the street lights. I’ve never been awake this early in Hawaii – this is a vacation destination after all, and prefer to sleep in as much as possible whenever I’m here. But not today. Today is the day of my big island-hopping adventure with Mokulele Airlines, and I had to get a very early start in order to make it to HNL in time to catch that first segment to Ho’olehua.

Taxis are hard to find at this early hour in Waikiki, but the friendly agent at the front desk of the Vive hotel was more than happy to call one for me and I was on my way to the airport less than 5 minutes later. Sleeping in was going to have to wait until tomorrow.

taxi ride to honolulu airport
A very wet taxi ride along H1 towards HNL.

Honolulu, HI (HNL) – Ho’olehua, HI (MKK)
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Aircraft: Cessna 208 Grand Caravan
Registration: N839MA
Duration: 20 minutes
Seat: Row 5 (the last row – I had it all to myself)

mokulele cessna 208 side view
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan (N839MA) side view illustration by
HNL to MKK route map
Our route from HNL to MKK this morning: MKK4 MKK

It never really occurred to me on the taxi ride to the airport that the weather was so bad. It was raining a bit with a light breeze, but it wasn’t anything I’d consider significant enough to put my flight in jeopardy.

I was thinking nothing but happy AvGeek thoughts the entire way, very much anticipating what was sure to be an awesome morning of hopping around the Hawaiian Island chain on a rinky-dink little airplane.

HNL inter island terminal
Curbside at the inter-island terminal at HNL. Looks like a ghost town at this early hour…
Mokulele Airlines check in HNL
Mokulele Airlines check in counters.

That feeling of excitement and anticipation was squashed in an instant by the Mokulele Airlines check in staff who told me right away that the weather was bad all across Hawaii today and that there was a pretty good chance the flight would be delayed – or even cancelled altogether.

There was no official delay or cancellation yet, but conditions were not favorable for flying and I was told to be prepared for the worst. She printed out my boarding pass anyway and sent me on my way.

Damn. This entire trip was build around these flights. More importantly, I needed to get over to the big island so as to not screw up my reservation on tomorrow’s Hawaiian Airlines flights that would position me for the trip home to San Diego.

If I couldn’t get to Hilo by tomorrow morning, I’d have to change my HA reservation, which was going to cost $$ I did not want to spend. I was suddenly having flashbacks of my Delta 747 adventure last November and how bad that one got screwed up. I ended up having to purchase a last-minute ticket to get me home from that one, and I did not want to do that again.

I hung out for a bit in the ticketing hall just to see if they would cancel the flight. If they did, well…I really had no idea what I was going to do. I probably would have booked a ticket on HA straight to KOA or ITO, thinking that the larger 717 aircraft that HA flies inter-island would be able to handle the weather better and that there would be less of a chance of cancelled flights. But I decided to cross that bridge if (or when) I came to it…

HNL commuter terminal departures
Despite the dire words from the Mokulele agent, everything seemed to be on time.

It didn’t seem like they were going to cancel the flight – and it didn’t even say “delayed” on the flight information boards, so I passed through security and had a seat in the gate area.

honolulu airport commuter terminal interior
Waiting patiently inside the commuter terminal.
honolulu airport inter island terminal interior
It’s kind of hard to see in this pic but the rain is still coming down pretty good outside.

I waited for a while. And waited some more. Even though it never changed from being listed as on time, the boarding time came and went with absolutely zero action happening at the Mokulele Airlines gate.

There was nobody manning the desk. Heck – there wasn’t even an aircraft parked outside! But the flight information displays still said “ON TIME” and then “BOARDING” before finally switching to “FINAL CALL”. WTF?

honolulu airport commuter terminal departures
“Boarding”. Ha! There isn’t even an aircraft at the gate yet…

Scheduled boarding time had come and gone without any signs of life at the gate, and I started to pack up my things to exit back out into the main terminal to see if I could figure out what was going on.

Just before I did that, I saw a Mokulele staff member walking through the gate area – another confused-looking passenger stopped her to ask a question, and he seemed satisfied enough with the answer to put his bags down and continue waiting. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was obvious this flight was still on. I continued to wait as well.

Mokulele Airlines gates honolulu
Ok, starting to see some action now!

Thankfully, a cute little red and white Mokulele plane zipped into the gate less than 10 minutes later, and boarding was underway shortly after that. It turned out that they never gave me a seat assignment, so the gate agent had to call to the front desk to ask where I was supposed to sit. “Put him in row 5” crackled over the radio, and I took my place in line.

Mokulele Airlines boarding honolulu
Taking my place in the number 5 spot. Boarding on Mokulele is very similar to how Southwest Airlines does it: just stand by your number and wait to board!
Mokulele Airlines row 5 sign
I was actually quite looking forward to being in the last row, as I figured that the photo and video opportunities would be best from there.
Mokulele Airlines honolulu
Kind of difficult to see, I know, but that’s our ride to MKK out there!

They walked all the passengers out to the plane as a group, handing out umbrellas to anyone who wanted one. Normally the tough guy in me would decline such a thing, but it was raining pretty heavily still to I took them up on their offer and walked my way out the plane.

walking to plane in the rain HNL
Bonus points for having umbrellas that match the color of the planes!
Mokulele Airlines gate honolulu
A very wet and sloppy walk out to the plane.
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan N839MA
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan – she’s a good lookin’ bird!

I don’t fly in little planes like this often, but this was not my first time on a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan. The last time was back in the spring of 2013 on Maya Island Air from Belize City to Dangrigia – a short but fun ride over the lush forests of Belize. Today’s flights would be short and fun too, but it was kind of a bummer that the weather was not cooperating. That was sure to limit the sightseeing possibilities.

boarding mokulele cessna 208
All aboard!
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 interior
Asiana A380 business class this is not. But still a very neat experience!
north face backpack
I had the entire last row to myself. Just me and my trusty backpack!
cessna 208 boarding door inside
Looks like I’m door duty today. It’s all up to me to crack that thing open in the event of an emergency!
SANspotter selfie mokulele cessna 208
The decor in here felt very “military”, but I wasn’t expecting anything more. This was cool!

They fired that thing up and started moving off the gate just seconds after they closed the boarding door, delayed only a second by a quick welcome speech by the captain. There are no PA systems on these aircraft, so he literally turned around and spoke directly to us.

Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card front cover
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card front cover.
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card interior cover
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card interior cover. I see a LOT of water in those instructions…
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card full spread.
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card back cover
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 safety card back cover.

It was a very wet and humid taxi out to the runway, and I was constantly wiping the condensation off the inside of the windows so that I could get decent pics to the outside world. There really wasn’t all that much to see though with all the rain – all the action was inside the airplane, and it was kind of neat to experience an aircraft so raw and analog for a change. There was absolutely nothing luxurious about it – and I loved it!

wet and rainy honolulu airport
It’s a soaker out there this morning.
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 takeoff HNL
And we’re off! Just about to fly over the cargo ramp.
departing HNL
Nice view of the reef runway at the top of the pic.
flying over honolulu
Honolulu is very much an industrial city.

The sightseeing was still pretty good as we departed to the east out of HNL, flying directly over top of Waikiki and Diamond Head. I couldn’t see much though since we were directly over top of the interesting bits, but it was nice having that entire last row to myself so that I could take pics out the window from both sides.

overflying honolulu
Pretty nice view from up here, eh?
departing honolulu airport
This would be so much more beautiful in nicer weather conditions!
western edge of Diamond Head
Flying over the western edge of Diamond Head.
diamond head from the air
The entirety of Diamond head. I guess I never realized it was actually a large crater…
SANspotter selfie
So much to see down there!
Hanauma Bay
That little notch is Hanauma Bay.
cessna 208 grand caravan inside
The windows were still very much covered with condensation, so photography was quite difficult to say the least.

Things calmed down a bit once we passed over the eastern shores of Oahu and were out over open water. There was really nothing to take pictures of anymore, which was actually a blessing due to how bumpy the ride was. Focusing all my attention on my camera and not on the horizon was starting to catch up to me about halfway thought the flight, and I was actually starting to feel a wave of motion sickness coming over me as we approached the western shores of Molokai.

Thank god we were landing soon – I felt an overwhelming need to plant my feet on solid ground, which had me a bit worried since this was only the first segment of the day.

flying between oahu and molokai
Out over open water now, but Molokai is just minutes away.
mokulele airlines cessna 208 interior
It didn’t take long for me to realize that looking inside the plane (or at my camera) was starting to give me motion sickness. Uh oh.
western shores of molokai
Molokai! “Keep looking at the horizon Scott, keep looking at the horizon…”
lush and green molokai
Wow…so lush and green!
runway 5 approach MKK
Turning final for runway 5 at MKK.

The sun was actually starting to poke through thin sections of the clouds once we touched down at MKK, which by the way, is a tiny little airport in the middle of nowhere. I really had no idea what to expect of this place, but it was neat to finally see it. Mental note: I need to go back to Molokai someday and spend a bit of time there – from what I saw of it, it’s absolutely beautiful!

Ho’olehua airport runway
Welcome to Ho’olehua!
MKK airport
Wow, such a small airport!
MKK airport
Is that the sun I see trying to poke through the clouds? I hope that’s a sign of things to come…

They made all passengers get off the plane at this stop, even those who were continuing on to Kahului like I was. I didn’t mind – I was looking forward to getting the chance to check out this little airport, as well as to calm my nerves a bit and shake off some of the motion sickness I was feeling before the next segment to OGG.

N839MA close up
It was still raining a bit as we deplaned so I had to huddle under the horizontal stabilizer to stay dry while waiting for them to lead us into the terminal.
mokulele airlines cessna 208 N839MA
Walking around the rear of the plane and heading inside for a few minutes.
mokulele cessna 208 grand caravan MKK
I didn’t realize it before, but all the luggage goes in that bottom section (beneath the fuselage). Neato!
MKK airport exterior
Security? What security? I was able to exit the airport completely, take this pic, then walk back inside before getting back onto the airplane (without a single security check). I love small airports!

Comments (5)

  1. John S

    June 4, 2017
    • SANspotter

      June 4, 2017
  2. Jimmy Gottfredson

    June 11, 2017
    • SANspotter

      June 11, 2017
      • Jimmy Gottfredson

        June 11, 2017

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