Aerial game has a whole new meaning at Four Seasons Lanai

Four Seasons Lanai

Aerial game has a whole new meaning at Four Seasons Lanai

Ultimate Guide

Aerial game has a whole new meaning at Four Seasons Lanai

Imagine showing up on the scenic Hawaiian island of Lanai, having never piloted an aircraft, and five days later, flying your first solo sortie in a Cirrus SR22.

That’s the premise of “Zero to Solo,” an intensive, $10,000 course offered by Maui Flight Academy through the Four Seasons Lanai.

The “Zero to Solo” program involves three hour-long sorties a day, with breaks for instruction and lunch. Students are back at the Four Seasons by dinnertime. If all goes according to plan on the initial five-day program, the flight instructor will fly with the student on the first 14 sorties; the student will solo on the final flight.

This is not your normal resort activity; it’s potentially a life-changing event. Laurence Balter, Maui Flight Academy’s chief flight instructor, said an Oklahoma doctor who participated in the program is, as of this writing, preparing to take delivery of his first airplane.

Before arriving on Lanai, Balter’s students need to put in several weeks of prep time, filling out FAA paperwork, undergoing TSA vetting and getting their student pilot certificate. There’s also reading material to cover beforehand.

Once they arrive at Four Seasons Lanai, aspiring pilots might want to settle in with some beach time and a round or two on Manele Golf Course, No. 20 on Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses list. Then it’s time to get to work.

“The people who can afford to stay at a place like the Four Seasons Lanai are Type A, entrepreneurial people,” Balter said. “They can’t sit on the beach too long. After a day or two of golf, they want to do other things.”

The “Zero to Solo” program was tailored for Four Seasons Lanai guests. They tend to be affluent, but might feel too time-stressed to fit flight training into their day-to-day lives. And Balter likes the psychological profiles of golfers visiting Lanai.

“Golfers are very focused individuals,” Balter said. “They’re very determined. More than most people, they understand frustration when things don’t go their way. Much like golf, they’re in it for the journey, the experience. So there’s a lot of psychological attributes that are coincident with golf. The people who want to do this program . . . want to sit in the left seat. They want to do this. They want to learn.”

That’s not the only connection Balter sees between golf and aviation. His program is modeled on Air Force and Navy flight training, which he said emphasizes angle of attack, which he calls “the most important element of low-level flying.” Just as a golfer needs to control his trajectory in the wind, Balter said a pilot must understand the proper angle of attack, particularly when buffeted by strong, unpredictable Hawaiian gusts. If you do that, he said, “The nasty winds don’t become a problem.”

For that reason, Balter said, Hawaii is “the perfect place to teach. If they can conquer the winds in Hawaii, they can pretty much conquer anywhere because we have such unique wind patterns . . . Other than, say, mountain flying in Colorado, it ranks right up there.”

Balter said some of the trickiest winds can be found at one of the state’s biggest airports, at Kahalui on Maui, because of the gusts that swirl between two volcanic mountains. “If you’ve ever played at King Kamehameha Golf Club (on Maui), you’ll know what I mean,” he said.

Balter said “Zero to Solo” is, effectively, the first stage in becoming a certified pilot. Students who want to extend their stays can move on to stage two, which is cross-country navigation using the traffic-control system, GPS and charts. Then it’s on to preparing for your pilot’s exam.

(Note: This story appears in Golfweek’s Ultimate Guide.)

 

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