A beautiful helicopter restored:
What young boy ever watched an episode of Magnum PI and didn’t wish he had the lifestyle of Thomas Magnum, the fictitious Private Investigator who worked out of his boss’s luxury estate on the island of Oahu. When he wasn’t zipping around in a Ferrari 308 GTS, Magnum (Tom Selleck) was being choppered around the islands by Theodore ”TC” Calvin in that beautiful MD500D helicopter with the unmistakable brown, yellow, and burnt orange paint scheme. All in the name of helping his clients, many of them beautiful women, and solving those perplexing cases he was hired to investigate, of course.
If you have ever dreamed of flying over tropical scenery, waterfalls and pristine beaches in the Magnum PI helicopter, there is a helicopter tour company in Hawaii who can now make that dream come true. Paradise Helicopters of Honolulu just accepted the keys to a magnificently restored MD500D model helicopter from Phoenix Heliparts of Phoenix Arizona.
The new Magnum PI helicopter:
The official ceremony took place on the floor of the HAI Heli-Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month (March, 2013). On hand for the ceremony were two of the original actors from the TV series, Roger E Mosley, who played TC- the helicopter pilot, and Larry Manetti, who played Rick Wright the manager of a posh private club and one of Magnum’s sidekicks. Oh, and Rick was also TC’s Marine Corps door gunner in Vietnam. Both actors autographed the nose of the newly restored Magnum helicopter, which is true in every detail to at least one of the helicopters that was used in the filming, to include the tail number, N58253.
The refurbished helicopter was first certificated by the FAA in 1978, and was reportedly a Honolulu Police Helicopter before it was sent to Arizona to be transformed back into the Magnum PI helicopter.
As a pilot with 1500 hours in MD500 helicopters, (thank you San Diego Sheriff’s Department) you can imagine my excitement when I spotted this aircraft on the floor of Heli-Expo. Sure there were countless other helicopters to look at; multi-engine, multi-passenger helicopters of every shape, size, color scheme and manufacturer but in my mind this little helicopter stole the show.
By all appearances it had just rolled off of the assembly line as a “spankin” new helicopter. I am well aware that the signature round nose generally indicates an older ‘D’ or ‘C’ model Hughes 369/MD500, but for a few minutes I wasn’t sure if MD was still building round nose helicopters. The helicopter was pristine inside and out, to include the engine compartment and its 250-C20R turboshaft engine.
Since it will be used for tours back in Hawaii the helicopter is outfitted with a Flightcell DZMx SATCOM system. The DZMx is billed as the world’s smallest, lightest, and smartest SATCOM for voice, data and aircraft tracking.
Paradise Helicopters has been in business since 1997 and currently offers helicopter tours on the Big Island from Kona and Hilo, as well as from the Island of Oahu. On the Big Island (Island of Hawaiʻi) the most popular destinations are the regions volcanos and the hundreds of waterfalls. In fact Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii’s number one attraction. Here you will find Kilaueu Volcano which has been erupting continuously since 1983. Paradise Helicopters operate a fleet of Bell 407 helicopters which have seating for 1 pilot and six passengers, and the MD500 helicopters have seating for 1 pilot and up to four passengers.
The best light helicopter ever built:
If you can’t tell by now, it is my humble opinion that the MD500D Helicopter is quite possibly the best light helicopter that has ever been manufactured. That also means it is one of the safest small helicopters ever built; again just my opinion but that’s for a different article. If you are going to Hawaii and you want to feel like Magnum PI for an hour or so, track down Paradise Helicopters and their beautifully restored Magnum edition helicopter.
Where is the real Magnum PI helicopter today:
So where is the original Magnum PI helicopter? There is evidence that at least one of them is still in service in Kentucky owned by a company that sub-contracts to an electric company. There are a number of comments in online forums from pilots who claimed to have flown the aircraft in Kentucky, and have observed the log book entries when it was used form filming on the Magnum PI series in Hawaii. Another one may have crashed during unrelated filming, but it is not the helicopter crash that was caught on film and featured on several TV shows.