Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Little R&R (Rotor & Reserve)

I kicked myself in the butt for not going XC on Saturday as the conditions were perfect – started a little east but settled into 30-40 degrees. Guess the salacious jumper/shark story kept me on the edge of my harness – I wanted to see what washed up ashore next after the heart and lungs were recovered, thought Natalie Wood was coming next.

On Sunday the beach was closed again and all the tourists were there to see the sharks. Something unsettling about launching with all the gawking tourists AND the rifle-bearing DLNR aficionados glaring as if to warn menacingly “...go ahead, land on my beach...” Jeff (on the funky) was first up and I followed in a tad stronger conditions than Saturday but great direction – around 30 degrees. Jeff tried to play with a hangie and get in the filming that was going on near hang launch but the director was having none of it – he whistled and waved him away – guess he didn't want to corrupt the purity of his hang gliding movie with a sleazy paraglider.

It didn't take long before we were around the corner and testing the conditions. I went back to the power lines and got lift along the way and took the plunge to Puu Ikena with lift up to 3 grand and on to Green Walls – I noticed the reservoir looks complete now – anyone know what they're going to do with it?

Getting around the next corner to the Pali took a little bar but lift was plentiful so it was on to Likelike and H-3. It was hard to stay below 3,500 and damn cold even with our layered clothing – need better gloves next time. By now we were hearing the Kahana group cavorting and planning. We discussed whether to go in front of Kualoa or behind. Figured we couldn't get high enough to go head-to-wind toward the park and since Jeff had been behind before we took the plunge. Jeff warned that once we went into BugaBuga land there was no turning back – how prophetic.

We were directly behind Kahana Bay and I was about 3,500k and Jeff was about 200’ lower and in front a ¼ mile when the “fecal matter was ingested into the air handling unit.” I heard something overhead and looked up to see the wing compress together into a mass the size of a basketball and jump to the right, open up and do a 180 and ball up again, jump to the left, open up and jerk 90 degrees. For the next 30 seconds the wing repeated this hyper activity a dozen times. So this is what serious rotor is like I thought to myself.

I'd taken SIV clinics and thermal clinics in Baja and Owens valley and never seen this type of conflagration. This wasn't your typical 50 percent collapse, spin 180, pump it out, or a frontal collapse and check the surge; this was washing machine high-speed jumbolation. The wing couldn't keep up with where the wind was coming from. I was ready on the breaks to catch any surges from full stalls but the wing never diverted from overhead – it was truly possessed and I was there to exorcise it but she just kept spinning her head. Every 10 seconds I'd glance down to check my altitude. My last glance I noticed I'd drifted back behind the Koolau's and figured even if she does come back to flying form I'll never get back over. Time to throw silk.

I looked down and grabbed the handle (located on my starboard at thigh level, under-seat type) and it came out as easy as the dip stick on 68 Chevy Nova w/straight six. As I pulled it up to throw it down it went off in my hand like a handgun in a Kalihi bar on a Friday nite – POW! What a lovely sound. I looked up to see a beautiful red and white-paneled reserve doing what it has been waiting to do for a long time beaming like a bench-warming rookie to a skeptical coach after making a game-saving play.

The next job was to tame the wing who now wanted to fly as if to say “...I'll behave now, Daddy...” It was like trying to reign in a Waimanalo Rottweiler at a toy-breed dog show. I was finally able to concentrate on one side and pull it in to watch below as I approached my new LZ in tiger country. Since I landed on a steep slope all the energy was dissipated for a rather uneventful landing. I was surprised how easy that went down. Jeff witnessed the whole thing from the cheap seats and was on the radio pronto to assess my condition. He quickly demanded radio silence to focus on the recovery. This wasn’t easy as he was getting his own dose of a turbulent colonic and he had to release a break to operate the radio – something you don’t like doing in those conditions.

I quickly packed up my gear and figured I’d go down hill and follow the stream out to Wahiawa. I got to the edge of the slope and the stream was 50 ft below. I thought maybe I could throw the gear down and then climb down but the moist ground was too slippery to trust. Reaper called (surprised I got phone service) to quickly advise against hiking out as it would take 4-5 days and he would call a chopper. Great call Reaper, thanks.

I pulled out my favorite bench-warmer again to let him play in the recovery game – he stood out like a nor’east debutant in a Jacksonville, Fl. biker bar with a shiny red and white prom dress. The sound of that chopper approaching unseen was eerie as the sound came from all directions in the valley - reminiscent of the synthesized choppers in the movie Apocalypse Now.

The fire rescue chopper appeared overhead and my newest best friend, Jeff from rescue 2, lowered down like mana from heaven. He quickly secured me in a harness called a “diaper” (hey, look at me, I’m an astronaut) and exclaimed, to my relief, that my gear was coming too because Fireman Dave would kill him if he didn’t. Thanks Dave. They quickly plucked me out of tiger country and across BugaBuga land and onto Ka’a’awa Park where Channel 4 was eagerly awaiting my story. The reporter finished her “parasailing” interrogation by stating that she bet I would never paraglide again to which I replied that I would be back in the air after a little R&R.

The next rescue came as Reaper hauled my mug out from in front the camera and into a 7/11 to buy beer for the logistics crew at Kahana. Jetflap rescued me by loaning me $12 for the beer and then Scrappy rescued me by getting me back in time to take four female flight attendants sailing at 4. Needless to say, the wife was not amused when I got home. My luck had run out, there was nothing or no one to rescue me now.


Suicide said...

I am SOOOOOOO glad that you are OK.

You, my friend, tell a great story: "it came out as easy as the dip stick on 68 Chevy Nova w/straight six," and "nor’east debutant in a Jacksonville, Fl. biker bar with a shiny red and white prom dress" . . . absolutly brilliant.

Hey . . . who are thes flight attendents?

sandy said...

nice one Frank; did you get the license plate number of the rambler that hit you?

What do you think it was? Shear at a thermal's edge? Rotor downwind of thermal? Rotor from visible object? Curse cast by your wife to try to keep you off the boat?

Suicide: careful, you don't want your nickname to extend to your lovelife, do you?

firedave said...

I love happy endings!

Nick said...

Four flight attendants?!? HABU! I'm going to call the phone company to complain about missed messages because I know you tried to call me...oh yeah, glad you're safe. After we figure out what the heck went wrong, it'll be a nice article in the USHPA rag.

paliglydr said...

Excellent tale, Frank. I'm very glad you came back in one piece from Tiger Country to tell it. And I think we all want to know the details of your boating adventure with the 4 (female I presume?), flight attendants.... ;-)

Alex said...

Frank, you sure tell a good story. I think you could make a sled ride sound like an epic adventure. And your pictures are super nice. But still no shot from inside Booga Booga Land! One day someone will be brave enough to capture one for the team.

In the meantime I am glad you escaped the wrath of Puu Manamana. I think we will all get our chance to tread that same path one day - we'll be lucky to have your presence of mind when we need it, or your cool eloquence afterwords.

Alex said...

Yeehah! I just saw the latest batch you uploaded, and you got some intense shots from inside the beast! Wow. Now I really never need to go back in there again! Thanks for posting those, Frank.