Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Flying Sites

This site guide is an overview of useful information for both local pilots and 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.

Please note: commercial / for consideration instruction and tandem flights are prohibited at all sites listed below. To be considered non-commercial, instructors / tandem pilots must not have charged or received compensation in the past 12 months at any site. Also, tow launching is currently prohibited.

Ninety percent of our flying happens at our primary sites of Kahana and Makapuu, which are officially permitted, regulated, insured and managed by our local USHPA chapters, and all USHPA protocols and requirements apply to our operations there.

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.

Pilots fly at many other spots around the island, on a very occasional basis, usually in the winter when the wind is blowing from unusual directions. These other spots are not managed or regulated in any way by our USHPA chapters. Over the years we have flown from every possible spot on this island and we have amassed a wealth of local knowledge that we are happy to share with newer pilots and visitors. We rely on the tolerance of the local communities to continue to access these more unusual spots. Following is a brief listing of some of these locations. Please contact a local pilot for current details.

Lanikai (LAN)
The ridge at Lanikai is a small hill overlooking an isolated and exclusive beachfront community. The ridge can be flown in moderate tradewinds, even when the direction is just a bit too east for Makapuu or Kahana. The flying is mostly ridge soaring with some thermals available on lighter days. The beach has become extremely crowded in recent years and the landings can be quite challenging.

Nanakuli (NAN)
On the leeward coast of the island is a mainland style ridge overlooking a cauldron of desert thermals, located on the dry and sun-baked western slopes of the Waianae Range. On rare 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 our most brutal, up to an hour straight up to 1000 feet in the hot sun. Cross country flying is complicated by vast military bases, restricted military airspace, and civil airspace.

Koko Crater (KKC)
Just around the corner from Makapuu is a crater that offers a combination of ridge soaring and thermalling on rare days when the wind is gentle to moderate southeast. Depending on the wind strength and direction this site can vary from easy ridge soaring to rock and roll thermic air. Do not land at the lifeguarded beach.

Koko Head (KKH)
A steep paved trail leads past the VORTAC installation atop Koko Head to a spot that can work on rare days when the winds are blowing light to moderate S to SW. Landings are typically made at the park below. The park is not visible from launch, and can be difficult to reach if there's any sink on the way. The air above the park can be quite swirly on stronger days. The park is small and can often be crowded.

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 low beach cliff. We have been warned by authorities not to hike up and launch from anywhere on the crater itself. The launches and landings in the roadside clearing can be technically challenging, and the same goes for landings on the beach below. Pilots stay well below Class B airspace which starts at 1,000 feet.

Tantalus (closed)
The DLNR has requested that we cease flights at this site.

Kahuku Motocross (KMX)
The gate to the track is only open on the weekends. The ridge is owned by the Army and leased to the motocross club on weekends. This spot works on the rare wintertime postfrontal days when it's not pouring. Generally it's ridge lift but on lighter days the thermals are workable.

Makua (closed)
The army has requested that we cease hiking and flying this site.

End of the World (EOW)
This spot can work on rare winter days when the flow is light and southwesterly. The usual takeoff is a low shelf at the very end of the northwestern peninsula. Landings are made on the hiking trails below, and never in the fenced bird sanctuary. The shelf is quite small and the airflow is always cross and usually strong. Pilots must stay below the radomes or maintain 2800 feet of distance. See airspace sectional for details. Also be aware of restricted military airspace.

Dillingham (HDH)
The ridge at Kaena Point faces north and works best in the rare light north winds we sometimes get in the wintertime. There is lots of air traffic here, from skydive operations to sailplanes. Also be aware of restricted military airspace.