Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Shooting up at Kahana

I don't know how many of you realize this, but we've got some folks on this island right now who really need to fly. I mean, they need - to - fly. Poor Don has suffered for nearly three weeks without a flight, after his long mainland holiday. Our pal Jayson is here visiting from Vancouver island, where it's been raining for weeks on end. And the rest of us are just our usual sad and desperate junkie selves after more than a week of strong winds, with nothing to salve our withdrawal but a few days of extreme kiting. But today, despite a forecast that boded ill for scoring any air, a few hard core junkies finally got a little fix.

The forecast today was for 15-20 mph winds. But many of us nursed secret hopes for better conditions in our hearts. This morning, Jayson (from Canada) hiked up Lanikai and then hiked down again. Somewhere in the middle of that time, he laid out his wing to launch and then thought better of the idea. Later on, Fireman Dave headed out to fly Kahana, and suckered me into coming out as well. I in turn suckered Don into joining us, and he did the same to Jayson. But the long shot paid off - our hopes were fulfilled with strong but nice flying conditions.

After shooting straight up from launch, we headed out and cruised around for an hour or so, trying to cross the bay, smacking in for a top-landing, relaunching and shooting up again to fly some more. After a little tree soaring at the beach, we landed and left to seek out lunch. But there was none to be found: Uncle Bobo's is closed til the 14th for renovations. Don bought us some consolation beverages, and while we surreptitiously sipped them, Jayson called and said he was finally at Kahana and ready to fly. I started to explain how to find the north launch, but we got cut off. Then me and Dave decided we couldn't bear to let Jayson fly alone, so we scrambled back over there for another little fix.

On the trail we met a local fishing spotter on his way down, who said he'd seen Jayson hiking all the way up. We weren't sure what he had meant by that until we got up there. He meant all - the - way - up. Jayson was a tiny speck looking down at us from way above the rhino horn. He had bushwhacked his way up from the road: losing the trail, but making his way along the streambed, climbing up steep ravines, crawling through the undergrowth, wading through brambly bushes, to find his own special path to the north ridge. But after all that, he must not have liked the look of our launches much, because he passed them all by in his zeal to get in the air. He was prepared to launch up there just to avoid another hike down for the day, but good sense prevailed and he joined me at the low launch.

It was much stronger for our second session of the day: in fact, there were kite surfers out on the bay at this point. Kite surfers! Now that's something you don't see every day at Kahana. I considered hiking down but Jayson would have none of that. He was bound for airtime. Fireman had top-landed, and he convinced me that flying down would be quicker than hiking down, and somehow that really made sense at the time. I launched but it was super strong as I suspected, and after shooting straight up like a rocket I headed out, but soon turned in to try some tree soaring. I didn't manage much, because the air had potholes in it, but Dave and Jayson followed me in and made the tree soaring look easy.

Then the kite surfers headed in to the beach. After Dave started talking to one of them, the guy said he was a paraglider pilot too. A local one, but we didn't know him. His name is Bill Fulton, and I remembered that I'd heard of him from Jon: he was the original local paraglider pilot here, a long-time hang glider pilot who took a day's paragliding lesson from some visiting European instructor in the 80s and figured the rest out himself. He was one of the guys running the hang gliding and paragliding operation at Kualoa Ranch before the fatality there forced them to close it down. And he said he wants to start paragliding again! He had some interesting stories of XC routes in the Kualoa area, and told us about flying up and down the ridges around Kahana in old gliders that managed a 4:1 glide at best. I'm curious to hear more, and I'm looking forward to flying with him when he gets back into the air.


Bob said...

Very sorry to have missed the day. This work stuff really gets in the way. I don't know how those 9 to 5er's do it. I think we'd all like to meet Bill and get some more stories of the old days flying wings w/ a single digit # of cells. So Alex, did you tell Bill of the used gear that is for sale here in Hawaii? Let's get him back into the air.

Alex said...

As a matter of fact, Bill said he still had his wing, a 1987 Comet (see picture), but I did mention that we have a lot of good used gear available here to get him started again.

jt said...

Greetings to Bill Fulton! I used to patronize his Kualoa flight park in 1990 and maybe early 91, using Jerry Forburger's towing rig (have video of it). Here was the most popular glider during my visits

I wonder if he was taught by the famous crusading Austrian in the late 80's who preached you should never touch a riser during (forward) launch. Maybe Bill is a relic like me, swearing by forward launch even in a typhoon. The Austrian was later caught robbing a bank in Europe to fund his paragliding operation.

Tell Bill he needn't buy seperate equipment for kitesurfing and paragliding. The most advanced ramair kite has been flown (with shortened lines) as a paraglider This is an awesome kite with much higher aspect ratio and L/D than any other kite (5.9 and 6.5 IIRC). Well, maybe not so safe to fly these, although there is a more novice model about to be introduced in 2 months.

firedave said...

Did he say " fur burger", I don't know why I find that name funny.
It was a different kind of day out there, strong but still very managable. I am still searching for the upper end. I was at almost 2600' and still couldn't get accross the bay, a bit breezy. Maybe Bill and I could trade gear.

jt said...

Jerry Forburger was a very famous, key pioneer of safe towing, mainly for hang gliders. He and his wife were so nice and had the lightest touch to tease a paraglider up on the end of a towline. Here is a link describing the dream Bill Fulton and he were pursuing at Kaaawa; can you imagine 20,000 participants per year?!

Sport Aviation Hawaii

firedave said...

Bill even mentioned some kind of cable hang glider trainer like 1000' long that thay were getting ready to build. It had something like a line attched to the front of your glider, and you flew down attached to a cable and as long you could fly on track you controlled the glider and if you flew out of the cable area it steered you back in. Safe hang glider training!