Meet Paradise Helicopters Pilot, Matt Mannion
Q&A with Paradise Helicopter Pilot, Matt Mannion:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a little place on the north end of the Big Island called Kohala, which only about 6,000 people living there. The running joke is that growing up we had one movie theater, no traffic lights and no fast food restaurants, and that nothing has changed except we don’t have the movie theater anymore.
What got you interested in flying?
Growing up, I always saw helicopters flying over our house on their way to the valleys, and it sparked an interest in aviation. After I graduated high school in 2001, I decided to go to flight school, and I completed my pilot training at Guidance Helicopters in Prescott, Arizona. Arizona was a great place, but I always wanted to come back home to Hawai’i.
What’s your background and flight experience?
After instructing in Arizona, I went to the Gulf of Mexico and worked for a company called PHI which did offshore oil support. I started off flying the Bell 206 then took a transition into IFR flying as a copilot in the S-76 and then the S-92. Most of our work was flying out of bases in Texas and Louisiana, but when I upgraded to Captain in the S-76 and S-92, international work began to become an option. I worked in Takoradi, Ghana in 2014, then flew a contract out of Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska in 2015. More recently I’ve done some contracting in Mozambique and Tanzania. Overall, I spent 10 years at PHI before I ended up moving back to Hawai’i and working for Paradise.
Is there a flight you’ve done that sticks out to you as a favorite?
In 2016, after the contract in Barrow ended, we had to ferry the aircraft from Alaska 3500 miles back to Louisiana. It took us about a week, but we saw everything from the Northern lights to the Canadian Rockies and a lot of provinces and states in between. I also really enjoy flying family and friends here in Hawai’i, being able to share some of my favorite parts of where we live with them is really rewarding.
What is your favorite tour to fly and why?
I like the Waimea flights that Paradise has begun to offer recently. I’ve flown many different tours in Hawai’i, but nothing beats the bang for your buck you get with this experience. It’s a thirty minute doors-off flight over some pretty spectacular valleys and waterfalls. We also offer the Waimea flight with a landing and whale watching during whale season.
What do you do for fun (besides working)?
My wife and I consider ourselves fortunate to live on an island that has so many things to do. We have a two year old and a four year old, so we like to do anything that gets kids outside. We like hiking, going to the beach, and driving a lot of the 4WD back roads that run all over this island.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Hawai’i?
For me it’s definitely Yong’s Kal-Bi Korean BBQ in Waimea where I live.They have huge plates, and my go-to is usually the Korean Chicken and Chicken Katsu combo plate. It’s also pretty hard to beat the Big Island Beef Burger from Village Burger at the Parker Ranch Shopping Center.