Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Flying Sites

This site guide is an overview of useful information for new local pilots and for visitors: click the title of each site for more details. Please note all sites on Oahu are rated P3 (Intermediate). Local P2 pilots may fly under our sponsorship program in the right conditions. Visitors, please contact a local club member for a site introduction before flying at our sites. Thanks for your understanding! Also please see our list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Oahu flying for visitors.

Kahana (KNA)

Kahana is a State Park located near the top of the windward coast of the island. It is a remote lush valley surrounded by tall ridges and fronted by a mile-wide beach and bay. One of the ridges over the bay faces the tradewinds, and offers consistent ridge soaring and thermal flights over one of the most beautiful undeveloped vistas on the island.

Makapuu (MPU)

The Makapuu ridge is a world class ridge soaring site located on the eastern tip of the island, pioneered and made famous in the early days of hang gliding. The ridge stretches three miles down the coastline, from the lighthouse perched on steep sea cliffs that rise from the churning waves below, to the hang launch overlooking a 1200 foot sheer drop to the beach. This site is also the easiest starting point for the longest cross country flights on the island, on rare light wind days with high clouds.

Lanikai (LAN)

The ridge at Lanikai is a small hill overlooking an isolated and exclusive beachfront community. The site is flown in moderate tradewinds, especially when the direction is too east for Makapuu or Kahana. This site is rarely flown these days but it can be a fun occasional change of scenery for windward flying. The flying is mostly ridge soaring with some thermals available on lighter days to get you higher. On the weekends the beach is super crowded and the landings can be challenging.

Nanakuli (NAN)

On the leeward coast of the island is a mainland style thermal-only site, located on the dry and sun-baked western slopes of the Waianae Range. On days when the tradewinds aren't blowing very hard or at all, the strong thermals on the west side can rival those in mainland desert locations. The hike is not trivial, but it's worth it for the rare opportunity to fly thermic lift like mainland pilots do.

Koko Crater (KKC)

Just around the corner from Makapuu is a crater that offers a combination of ridge soaring and thermalling on days when the wind is anywhere south of east and not too strong. This site features our largest and easiest landing site, the vast manicured green expanse of grass behind Sandy Beach Park, first pioneered by the hang gliders flying from Makapuu in the early days. Depending on the wind strength and direction this site can vary from easy ridge soaring to rock and roll thermic air.

Koko Head (KKH)

Every day, joggers and dog walkers enjoy the steep paved trail that leads to the VORTAC installation atop Koko Head. These hardy hikers are rewarded by a panoramic view of Maunalua Bay. On rare winter days when the winds are blowing light to moderate S to SW, hardy paraglider pilots will brave the hike to soar the ridge.

Mariners Ridge (closed)

The trail to access the launch area has been closed to all hikers.

Diamond Head (DHD)

On the rare prefrontal winter days when we have moderate southerly Kona winds and it's not pouring rain, Diamond Head Crater can be flown from a roadside clearing on a beach cliff. The launches and landings in this clearing can be technically challenging, but the reward is a smooth ridge soaring flight and a world class view of Waikiki and Honolulu. We don't get as high as we'd like here because this site is located under class B airspace with a floor of 1,000 feet.

Tantalus (closed)

The DLNR has requested that we cease flights at this site.

Kahuku Motocross (KMX)

On the remote North Shore of Oahu, above the famous wintertime big wave surfing beaches, is a mountaintop circuit of motocross tracks in the woods, with one track that takes you to a low cliff that faces northwest. The gate to the track is only open on the weekends. This site works best on the rare wintertime postfrontal days when it's not pouring. Generally it's ridge lift but on lighter days the thermals are workable. On the best days here you can soar the entire miles-long ridge between Kahuku and Waimea.

Makua (closed)

The army has requested that we cease hiking and flying this site, because it is on federal government property, and because of risks to native flora, and to archaeological sites, and because of unexploded ordinance, and (maybe mostly) because of their concerns about liability. We suspect that social media hashtags doomed the site by flooding it with hikers eager to shoot selfies from upper Makua Cave.

End of the World (EOW)

The most remote and undeveloped corner of the island, with spectacular views of the western coastline and mountains, is flown on rare winter days when the flow is light and southwesterly. First pioneered by speed flyers, it can be reached by 4WD from the north side, in a permitted vehicle, or by driving all the way around the island to the end of the road on the west side, followed by an hour long hike along the dirt road. The usual takeoff is a low shelf at the very end of the northwestern peninsula. The shelf is quite small and the airflow is always cross and usually strong.

Dillingham (HDH)

The ridge at Kaena Point, at the remote NW tip of the island, is a miles-long thousand foot cliff that runs behind Dillingham airfield and gliderport. It faces north and works best in the rare light north winds we sometimes get in the wintertime. In the old days the pilots used to get day permits to enter the Air Force gate on the west side of the ridge and drive up to the launch area from the back, but then they had to make sure to top-land because driving to the bottom would require a very long drive around the whole Waianae mountain range. In recent years pilots have flown this site by hiking up from various points: the Kealia trail, the climbing wall trail, the trail at the end of the paved road (to reach the formation we call the knob), and the trail to the meadow that used to be the drive up launch.