Flight 583 from Honolulu to Kalaupapa was rather bumpy but we made it safely across the treacherous waters of the Ka’iwi (Molokai) Channel. The plane looped around the south side of Molokai island, then headed north before turning to the right and shortly thereafter preparing to land. At which the cry went up, “This is not Kalaupapa.” Sure enough, we were about to land at Hoolehua, the Topside Molokai airport. We were not happy. We had landed at the wrong airport and it was close to sunset.
Sunday, February 19, had started well for me. I had offered Mass for our Sacred Hearts Sisters at their retirement/guest house in Kaimuki. Mass was followed by a sumptuous breakfast which rivaled any Irish guest house breakfast. Then it was time to pack my bags and relax until it was time to head for the airport. I had been in Honolulu for a few days where I had offered my body for one of those old “rubber tubes” from the north and the south medical procedures. All had gone well though I had not relished the dish water libation provided for me on the day of preparation before the procedure. Perhaps it was a preparation for the Lenten season!
Some time after 2:30 p.m., Mokulele’s Flight 583 pulled away from Terminal 3 and taxied toward the takeoff runway. Suddenly, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we had to return to the terminal because of some instrument problems. Hopefully, these would be fixed in a short while and we would soon thereafter be on our way. We had no problem with this. It was better than having to turn back while over the channel. We returned to the terminal and decided to make the best of the situation. Some of us relaxed in the air conditioned lounge and chatted with couples awaiting flights to Maui and Lanai. An hour went by and then another hour and finally at about 6 p.m. we were called to board and soon we were airborne on our way to Kalaupapa. This was one time it was good to get off the ground.
As I mentioned in opening, the flight was bumpy and elicited a number of oohs and aahs. We were happy when we emerged from the clouds and saw the west end of Molokai down below. We were somewhat surprised, however, on realizing that we were flying offshore on the south side of the island but figured that our young pilot duo knew what they were doing. That thought vanished when we saw that we were about to land at the wrong airport. Then, with the plane taxiing to the terminal, we were told that we would not be flying to Kalaupapa. We were stranded on the Friendly Isle.
LeAnna returned to Honolulu and Johnathan ran down the three-plus-mile trail to Kalaupapa in pitch darkness. Yes, thank the Lord, he did so without injury. Steady Eddie was very kind and dropped me off at the residence of the surprised Deacon Mike and Leoda in Kawela, after which he went to his home in Kaunakakai and feasted on a whole chicken.
I spent the night with Deacon Mike and Leoda and slept in a king-size bed. The next morning, I flew down to Kalaupapa. “And now”, as Paul Harvey would say, “you know the rest of the story.”
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.