Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Sunday, April 6, 2003

Paragliding is
rare but allowed
above Tantalus

Question: I recently saw what looked like hang gliders flying above Tantalus. I had never seen hang gliders there before and was wondering if there are any restrictions as to where they can go.

Answer: What you probably saw were paragliders, said Alex Colby, who explained that paragliders use arc-shaped canopies that resemble parachutes, while hang gliders fly via triangular, rigid-wing equipment with metal supports.

Tantalus is a rare spot for paragliders to soar, but there is nothing that prohibits them from doing so, according to Colby, who has been a spokesman for the Hawaiian Hang Gliding Association and is president of the newly organized Hawaii Paragliding Association.

The main restriction for both types of gliders "is to stay out of controlled airspace without permission," he said. However, the state requires permits for paragliders to launch or land in state parks and forestry reserves.

But in the air, "there is very little controlled airspace that we normally have to worry about," Colby said. "In fact, the top of the Tantalus area, according to the maps I've seen for controlled airspace, is not controlled air space."

"The FAA doesn't really have any jurisdiction over hang gliders (or paragliders)," said Tweet Coleman, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Hawaii.

That's because both type of gliders "don't have any FAA certification to fly ... there is no 'N' number involved."

She explained that helicopters and airplanes all have a "'license plate,' if you will, or an 'N' number." But since hang gliders and paragliders "are not registered by the FAA, we really don't get involved."

Colby said that weather usually determines where the gliders go. Tantalus is a rare spot (to choose) in terms of the weather. It is very unusual that that spot would be justified.

He also was candid in saying that the gliders will go to select spots "if we can get away with it."

But for places popular with the group, "We either have to get permits (or permission) or we get shut down by authorities," he said.

So far, Kahana Valley is the only state park "in the whole state," where a permit has been issued to allow paragliding (not hang gliding), according to state Parks Administrator Dan Quinn. For that, the paragliding association had to obtain liability insurance, he said.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has similar restrictions against paragliders and any other aircraft in state forestry reserves, with aircraft defined as "any contrivance now known or hereafter invented, used or designed for navigation of or flight in the air."

"We have an association that works to get access to sites, if we need it, but that doesn't stop people from deciding, 'I want to try this spot,'" Colby said.

"If there is a problem, we as an association try to deal with it, but as far as I know, we have no problems with the very occasional use of Tantalus," he said.

Added Quinn: "We've had reports where people have seen them (paragliders) from time to time (on state property) but it's not a major headache."

If you have further questions or complaints, call Colby at 221-7470.


To whoever found my keys and turned them in to American Savings Bank on Ward Avenue and Queen Street on April 1. That saved me a lot of trouble and hassle of getting new keys and changing locks. -- No Name


When coming down the Pali Highway and entering the H-1 going east, you need to merge left into a lane in which vehicles already on the H-1 in the middle lane can also merge into. If there were a solid line preventing H-1 traffic from merging right, those cars entering from the Pali onramp would be able to do so more safely. There is a solid line prior to the merge area, but it changes to a dotted line right at the merge point. If that solid line could continue for several hundred yards, new traffic merging onto H-1 wouldn't have to worry if someone also is going to merge from the left. There are many places where this type of solid line exists for this very reason, so I have never understood why it doesn't exist at that particular spot. Can you pass this suggestion for making traffic safer and easier on the H-1 freeway on to the transportation department?

(We passed it on to a highway official for the state Department of Transportation.)


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