Friday, February 16, 2007

Ready or not, here I fly!

After months of being limited to 200 characters in the chatterbox and tailgating other articles, I write my own. And oh yes, it will be longer than 200 characters. I didn’t take any pictures, but there will be pictures.

I’ve been working my butt off for the past 14 days killing stimulated bad guys from the evil P-land. I did get a break on Feb 7 and went out to Makapuu to check it out. The winds were weak and it was raining the whole time. Luckily I had brought my running shoes and decided to run up to the lighthouse for some sorely needed exercise and also to scout out the east launch spots on the way. I like running in the rain, it makes me feel like I’m working up a good sweat. No flying that day. I was really sorry for all the people that flew out to Hawaii to help in the exercise. On their one day off…rain. Feb 8: back to kicking P-land butt. I shouldn’t have taken a day off, in my absence Y-land has joined P-land. Intelligence projects 6 more days of fighting. One bright spot in the exercise is that I got to see the new F-22 up close. They were only supposed to be here one day, but had to turn back due to an unbelievable problem. The unclassified reason for the return because they weren’t receiving the Pro Bowl in HD in their cockpits.

1.6 Billion dollars (for 12) and the bars that would be familiar if they caught me taking these pictures.

Feb 16: Like other druggies, I head to Makapuu to get high. I arrive at the LZ around noon and contribute to the beach bum bottle and can recycling program. The winds are coming from rabbit isle at about 12 mph. Pretty blustery for the LZ. I drive by crazies and I can see plenty o whitecaps in the bay. No sharks. The wind tape is fluttering, well, crazily. Manics is blowing 20 gusting to 25 mph. My glider goes 30! No problem! So I set up at Manics, just kidding. Now my only chance is Crazies, but if Manics is blowing this hard, then crazies is probably out of the picture too. I get to crazies and it’s blowing about 15 to 18 mph. No sharks. Hmmm. That’s pretty windy for me. I almost talk myself into launching further down the hill, but concluded that even the best case scenario would involved been low and out front with great potential for blowback. The thought of a helicopter ride was tempting; especially after watching that helicopter video posted today performing all those wildcat maneuvers.

I resign myself to do some kiting at the LZ. I haven’t flown in two solid weeks, so I could definitely exercise some of that muscle memory. Since it was so windy, it would be a good opportunity to practice some A’s and C’s technique.

I arrive at the LZ and it’s still blowing pretty hard. I decide to go on a field trip and check out the dunes. I find an old mattress and a burnt out mini-BBQ grill along the way. I think to myself that surely there is a power-up or magic item under these oddly place items. Way too many video games in the past….

I get all dressed up to kite. I decide to stuff my stirrup and speedbar into my safety “T” strap so that I wouldn’t be tripping all over it while kiting. I would later regret it. I start kiting the wing around and the wind is switchy and gusty. There is a school bus below in the parking lot below the LZ, hey instant crowd. A tourist comes up to me asking if I’m going to takeoff. I smugly explain to him that you cannot takeoff from flat ground, but need either dynamic or thermal lift. Negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over two a. Blah blah blah. Are we clear?

I kite for a few more minutes, the wind is getting less switchy, but still gusty. I transition to forward kiting and try to claw my way to the rabbit edge of the LZ, much like a dog straining against a leash. The wind is still coming directly from Rabbit, maybe a tad left. That’s when it happened. The wing lurches forward a little and then just lifts me straight up about 20 feet. It kinda reminded me of Alex’s levitation trick at Kahana. Unfortunately I wasn’t reverse kiting and couldn’t use his C’s and D’s technique of getting down again. Anyway here I am at 20’ and the school bus and a train of cars were starting to leave in a steady stream. Why is the LZ road crowded at this particular moment?!? Another gust of wind comes along and lifts me up and back to what must have been about 40-50 ft. I’m now in danger of being blown back across the highway. I am almost over the guardrail now. Fortunately the highway doesn’t seem to be too busy. I think about turning to the side and landing somewhere in Sealife Park, but now I’m beginning to penetrate and I’m not losing much altitude. I do still have my trimmers available to me, but I’m hesitant to use those because of the gusty conditions. I’m hanging by my crotch in my harness and my stirrup and speedbar is pinned under my safety T-strap. I’m not feeling comfortable enough to let go of the toggles and pull myself into the harness. Besides, I’m only 50 ft up and we’ve been harping on “standing up” in the harness when you’re that low anyways. It sure would be nice to have that speedbar though.

I slowly make my way back to the rabbit side of the LZ. As predicted, the ridge/road gives me another boost and gets me back to 50, maybe even 60ft. The LZ is way below me now. I’m not feeling comfortable at all and it’s not just the unpleasantness of crotch hanging. I’m still making my way forward and not losing much. I’m over the dunes now and approaching the black rocks near the shore. Well I can’t just keep flying straight duh. I snap out of it and start to “S” my way back towards the LZ. The wind is still gusty, but not scary. I find that I can stay up at about 30-40ft by staying over the dunes. I make about a dozen passes and then the wind just shuts down and I end up landing right below the LZ near the LZ road that goes north. I pump my fists up in a victory “V” and then sheepishly shrug at the guy I just told about flatland flying.

I’m pumped now. I unpin the speedbar and stirrup and decide to give it another try. This time I get lifted off and the blown mostly back and not up. I quickly kill the wing, but not before I execute a perfect Hapkido forward roll. This is apparently witnessed by Submarine Steve and reinterpreted as being drug. I like my version better. Even though it’s certainly not the smartest thing, I keep trying to pioneer this new launch. No power lines and hella convenient. The winds were strong, but not switchy, is my only rationale. After a while the winds start to die down and I can hardly even kite the wing anymore. The wind is bored of tossing me around. Like a jealous lover, I follow it to Manics.

I loosepack the wing and drive back up to Manics. Now it’s blowing only 18-20. Ooohhh, crazies must be perfect. Crazies is showing about 12-14 mph; a tad strong, but definitely within my skillz. After clearing a couple of snags, I was up and off in smooth conditions. I call Reaper from the air and let him know that MPU was ON! I float towards Manics and feel it sucking me in…not today. I bench up higher and cross over to the light house in very smooth conditions. I try to “high five” the tourist again on the overlooks, but didn’t try to come so close this time. I play around with some wingovers and try a couple of asymmetric spirals. It’s too dangerous to get up very high and too strong to get out far enough for good acro practice. I then put out my trimmers and stood on the speed bar to “rush” back to the bowl. Wow that was fast, wish I had my GPS. I swoop down to the lifeguard shack and yell out "No sharks!" I'm not sure if he heard the "no" part (just kidding). Anyhoo, I see a rain shower coming, but I don’t want to land yet, so back to the light house to wait it out. I barely make it there, the winds are getting stronger. I decide to land after the rainstorm passed. It turned very nice post rainshower, but I’ve risked enough today. I ended up landing in the dirt parking lot near the main Makapuu bathroom.

Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Don’t try this at home. The whole time I was thinking this is dumb…but it’s so fun. I’m really happy that I got a flight in before the trades pick up in earnest this weekend. Here is a nice happy ending picture.



Alex said...

You write some funny prose Nick. But at the same time it certainly keeps me on the edge of my seat. I'm glad you survived the gusty north kiting practice - I've heard that what doesn't kill you makes you strong. Too bad we don't have a nice safe sand dune to soar in strong winds here - instead we have to settle for a skinny landing zone surrounded by highway, guardrails, power lines and busy driveways.

firedave said...

Your writing is excellent, the rest of it I would seek professional help for.

Anonymous said...

Great Nick.
If I hadn't heard the wind noise in the background, I wouldn't have believed what I was hearing on the cell message you left me.

What was even scarier, was the fact that, while I was killing golf balls, trees, birds, etc at Olomana Golf course in Waimanalo, it was super nuking strong. Most of the day I couldn't even see Makapuu thru the heavy rain squalls.

Steve gave me the update later, lucky again, eh?

Someday we should invade Kahuku golf sand dunes again on a strong north day. We had similar experiences there too.


Brazilian Ray said...

great post! LOL

paliglydr said...

Nick, next time there are F-22's in town, I would hope you could get some of us a ride in one? I have no doubt Fireman Dave, Reaper, and a few others could be persuaded to give a tandem or 2 in trade! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Shoot, I'd give any amount of free lessons for a flight in any fighter jet... Especially and F-15 / F-16? F22, hell I'd trade my left leg. Although, a tandem flight in an F-22 is impossible, since I think it's a single seater. Maybe trade PG lessons for F-22 flight lessons. Fair trade, huh?


firedave said...

It would be easier to get yourself a ride in the fire helicopter, Russell. Just toss the laundry atop the Koolau and call for the free ride.
In fact there are so many people calling for a ride on Diamond Head trail that sometimes we think it is in a Hawaii On The Cheap Guidebook somewhere!