Paradise on pontoons


Wouldn’t it be great to own the only seaplane operation in the Hawaiian Islands? Fly excited tourists around one of the most beautiful islands in the world? Sit on your own waterfront lanai, surrounded by potted palm trees, and never again have to look at a snow shovel? Sounds like your gig? Then you need to talk to Pat Magie, seaplane pilot and raconteur extraordinaire.

This deal comes not only with a spectacular view, lots of waterfront, its own historic water runway — the old Pan-Am Clipper Sealane — but for no extra charge, the seller will throw in a 1954 de Havilland Beaver, in Pat Magie’s opinion, one of the finest working aircraft ever built.

Debbie and Pat Magie

“Of the 1,631 made between 1947 and 1966, 1,100 of them are still flying,” he says. He’s reduced the plane’s original nine seats to six passenger window seats, as most of his customers prefer the added space. One of the nice things about the Beaver, Magie explains, is that “anything that won’t fit inside or through its four doors, you just tie on the outside — kayaks, moose, refrigerators, you name it.”

To sweeten the pot, Magie will also contribute a 1980 Cessna 206 and its pontoons, now undergoing a major facelift.

Make him an offer — somewhere north of $1.6 million, because, believe it or not, he’s hankering to go back to Alaska and build a fishing camp.

In the meantime, in case you’re not in the market for a seaplane business in the shadow of Honolulu International Airport (HNL), overlooking azure waters, past the sparkling hotels of Waikiki Beach to Diamondhead, you can at least set aside a few days to get your own seaplane ticket in that Beaver. It’ll run you about $3,200 for the six-to seven hour course, and the checkride with the FAA examiner is free.

Magie has logged more than 39,000 hours, all of it accident-free, and the vast majority of that in seaplanes. He claims to have more seaplane hours than any other pilot in the FAA database and, in fact, logged more than 450 hours on floats before he ever landed at an airport. “I’ve never had any desire to fly on wheels, and I hate airports,” he says.

His dad was the proud possessor of Pilot Certificate #8 signed by Orville and Wilbur Wright, but the elder Magie gave up flying in 1938, a victim of the Great Depression. When Pat Magie left the Marine Corps in 1955, he hankered to see the North Country he so loved as a canoe-paddling teenager, and he figured a floatplane was the best possible way to do that. The rest, as they say, is history — a very unlikely history, at that.

It’s been an interesting ride, Magie admits. In between stints flying in back-country Alaska and northern Canada, and running his aerial tour business in Hawaii, he’s managed to do quite a bit of stunt-flying for major films and TV series. “Believe it or not, I was the body-double for Catherine Zeta-Jones in ‘The Phantom,’ dressed in a black wig and a dress,” he says. He also did the flying for television show “Fantasy Island,” and a number of other hit movies and TV shows. He still has his Screen Actors Guild card.

This idyllic view has belonged to Pat and Debbie Magie for 15 years. At one time he intended to build a more conventional office building but gave up on that idea after a frustrating eight-year zoning fight with the State of Hawaii. Island Seaplane Service, then, is based on an extensive wooden floating structure. It’s registered in Hawaii as a vessel, and anchored to the shoreline.

The Magies not only live right there, but rent their spacious over-water lanai and its spectacular view for cocktail parties and receptions. All the host needs to provide is guests. To make the party utterly unique, a 20-minute seaplane flight is included.

Right next door is, incongruously enough, a wedding chapel, stained glass windows, steeple, and all. It’s also on a floating platform. The weddings, which go on all week, are no doubt the easiest, not to mention very lucrative, aspect of the business. All the wedding arrangements are made by an Asian tour company that specializes in destination weddings. Weddings in Japan and South Korea, Magie explains, are very expensive. The couple can save thousands of dollars by eloping with their nearest and dearest to Hawaii. The happy couple is entitled to a seaplane ride over Hawaii’s south shore as part of the booking, but for some reason, they don’t often take advantage of that opportunity.

Unfortunately, Magie lost his medical certificate, but that’s OK — he has an ace in the hole: Once the Honolulu seaplane business is sold, Debbie Magie plans to buy herself a little Cessna 172 on floats, get her own ASES ticket, and provide airport-to-fishing-lodge transportation all summer long in the new location.

Meanwhile, Magie employs four seaplane pilots in Hawaii, among them “a retired JAL 747 captain, a young fella from Kodiak, Alaska, and a CFI from across the street,” referring to the GA ramp at HNL, where there are a number of FBOs.

For more information: 808-836 6273,



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  1. William Bailey says

    I have been to this operator and toured the island by DH-2 Beaver. It is an amazing way to see the beauty of O’ahu – Pearl Harbour, villages on the east shore, breakers on the north shore as well as the pineapple plantations. A truely amazing story.

  2. Frank R. Sandoval says

    Ms. Reiheld:

    I had a hard time determining who would be the most remarkable story teller, you or Mr. Magie. Of course second place to Mr. Magie’s 39,000 hours stories may not be such a bad thing. What a great story. The story out in the street her in Texas is, when I win the lotto this week, I am going straight to Hawaii and make Mr. Magie an offer.

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