Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hawaii Thermal Research Lab Report; vol 1 no. 1

Abstract: Light prevailing post-frontal N winds allowed challenging but soarable conditions for thermal flying in the midafternoon at Nanakuli if you started early enough.

Intro: When McStalker first posted a chat about it being a good day for Nanakuli, I almost retorted back that it would probably be too blown out by the N winds. I would have been wrong. While I was contemplating Makapu'u hearing that Cactus might be doable, JeffMc was checking out Nanakuli from down below. His reports were good enough to get Doug heading out, followed soon by Eric, Chandler, Greg, Dave and finally me.

Methods: Doug launched first from low at about 3 pm. From what I heard, conditions that were initially quite promising were just starting to wane and he was concerned that he may have waited too long, but in Doug-style, he worked the bowl of Haleakala until he found the thermal elevator to the top and beyond. The others opted to hike a bit higher for better odds. Chandler launched from mid-launch and hugged the bowl tightly finding nary an uptick.

After landing near the dump road he reported there was lift over the open field. Dave hucked off from high? launch and found moderate lift. Jeff made many attempts from mid, but the cycles were just too light to get a good inflation. Eric *patiently* waited on the dump side high launch until finally a cycle came through that was good enough to get off even though by this time all of the air I could feel was coming up from the school side.

Meanwhile, Greg set up on the school side at middles and finally I ventured school side at high launch.

Results: Doug was able to track with his elevator thermal to all the way over the saddle behind the Haleakala peak. You can see the GoogleEarth of his flight here, but from what I saw he flew along the main ridge for awhile, came back to see what the mortals below were up to, disappeared again for awhile, then came back and danced around at about 2 grand or so with Dave for awhile over the launch area. Eric made the best of what was left in the late day after scooting around to the school side and finding some lift there. Greg and I were simply happy not to have to hike down.

Discussion: Clearly Doug's flight was the most successful, but it's hard to gauge how much of that was due to his high skill level and familiarity with Nanakuli versus his earlier timing. By his own observation he thought he might have been just barely catching the last of the desirable conditions. I think from that point on, all pilots were at a disadvantage. What we don't know is what was it like *before* Doug and Jeff got to launch. The inland Waianae NOAA wind sensor switched to a S reading at 11 am and stayed until it switched to N at 3 pm. Dave, who also possesses considerable skill, had to hike higher (which not only takes more effort but more time) and still he did not sky out like Doug did, all presumably because he started just a bit later.

Conclusion: Hard as it may be, sometimes you have to commit to a trip to Nanakuli before you know for sure that it's good. With two pilots living out on that side of the island, we have a better chance than ever of being able to make a good bet on a good day out there -- but I think we increase our odds of having a good day if we are able to commit fast and get out there early.


Alex said...

Great abstract, Dr. Sandy! Your methods are impeccable and your conclusion is incontrovertible. It sounds like all of the lab animals were treated well enough. I would only add that I would love to see your photos added to the Wind Lines group in Flickr - thanks!

Brazilian Ray said...


firedave said...

Sandy you flying skills as well as your understanding of flying conditions have grown tremendously. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...
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sandy said...

Thanks alot, Doug!

That great elevator ride in front of Haleakala -- was that on a thermal coming up in that dark gully (the one that sometimes produces real nasties)? If so, was it rough? (didn't look it from my vantage point)

Was that thermal on the other side of the valley at the place you guys call the "pyramid"?