Eleven years after our successful Halley's Comet Jet Flights out of Seattle in 1986, another bright comet appeared in the night sky. in 1997. At the time, we were living in Honolulu. I learned that Bishop Museum was planning a similar jet flight for museum patrons to view Comet Hale-Bopp. I contacted the planetarium director at Bishop Museum and asked if they needed volunteers to help with the planning. I told them of my prior project done in Seattle in 1986 to see Halley's Comet taking over 800 people to see it.
Comet Hale-Bopp 1997, Hawaii
Peter Michaud, the planetarium director, informed me that his wife was due to deliver their first baby on the weekend of the flight and asked if I could take over planning and running the trip in his absence. We chartered a Hawaiian Airlines MD-80 to take 110 patrons to see the comet. I planned an entire weekend, including the Friday night jet flight, but added adventures on Maui for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday morning, we began with guest lecturers on comets at our breakfast. We then boarded a charter motor coach and set off for the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala to view the comet again from the visitor's parking area near the observatories. We included bento box dinners for everyone and brought along several telescopes the Hawaii Astronomical Society provided. The first person to spot the comet that evening won a commemorative Tee-Shirt.
Our view of the comet was spectacular. Sunday morning, we went whale watching out of Lahina before flying back to Honolulu. The expedition was a resounding success, and unbeknownst to me, my success was a job interview to work on a NASA grant at the museum planetarium.