Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Tale of Two Craters

I was hoping someone would post an account of the two recent busy days of Kona wind flying. A lot of pilots made it out to Makapuu, Koko Crater and Diamond Head, but many of our gentle readers weren't able to be there, and I'm sure they'd like to hear about our adventures. By now you must all know how this works: if you don't post a flight report yourself then there's a good chance someone else will just fabricate a story from whole cloth. I was only around for brief sessions on both days, but I guess I'm just a compulsive fabricator, so here goes. (And I must admit I had a lot of help from Russell, my fearless field correspondent, who was kind enough to e-mail me some juicy details.)

Day One, Crater One: Swarming like Flies

On Sunday, as the wind clocked from very E to SE, some wishful pilots tried to find flyable air at Nanakuli and Kahana, but the action turned out to be at Makapuu and Koko Crater. Five locals and three visitors launched and flew Makapuu, and six of them ended up crossing over to soar Koko Crater (all the visitors crossed, god bless 'em). It was the first time Jon (from Maui by way of Oregon) had flown on Oahu. A bunch of us arrived as the last Makapuvian (Dave) was in the air and getting ready to cross. Rather than struggle with the worsening conditions at Makapuu, those of us in the late shift all decided to just hike and fly at Koko - kind of like launching right at the goal line in a competition. (Look, mom - I made it!)

So Dave made his crossing, and then watched a dozen pilots hike up and launch to join him in the air above Koko Crater. At first there were a couple of nice thermal cycles pumping through, but eventually it smoothed out into pure peaceful ridge lift - one of those rare perfect easy Koko days. Navy Don flew there for the first time - now he's going to have warped expectations of baby smooth air. My camera card was full after only three mediocre shots, which was a real shame because the sight of up to a dozen gliders arrayed below me would have made an incredible shot. Guess I'll just have to try to hold that image in my leaky brain somewhere. Also my trusty little vario droid experienced a power malfunction, so as I tried to milk the lightest bubbles of warm air to get higher, I found myself sorely missing those little beeps and squawks. (Use the force, Luke!)

I landed fairly early and had to scramble out of there to make it to dinner, just as people were finally succumbing to the magnetic force of the cooler. I imagine there was quite a nice festive buzz going at the LZ for a while after I left.

Day Two, Crater Two: Mishaps and Milestones

On Monday, sixteen pilots flocked to Diamond Head over the course of the day, and many of them got airborne to savor the world-class view of Waikiki from above our favorite national historic landmark! Jorge flew by himself all morning, and around lunchtime people started to trickle over there to join him. Mad Dog came out of his hiding place to fly, and Don and I rushed out to join him, even though we only had very brief windows of free time. Peter launched for a quick ride to the beach - as if that weren't painful enough, he was snared by a treacherous kite-eating tree before landing. Dangler kindly hiked down to lend a hand. Russ came out and soared there for the first time ever (having practiced with a sledder the other day).

Don and I had to leave early, but I heard lots of folks showed up later on, some for sledders and others for longer flights. I heard Sandy had no trouble getting up - it could have been her first time soaring too, I'm not sure. But I'm sure it was the first time launching the garden for many pilots. I heard that several unfortunate souls had trouble avoiding the water at the beach (Bob, Scrappy, Russ, anyone else?) - it must have been high tide or something. And I'm told Bob launched with a horrible knot around his brake pulley, which I'm guessing might have impaired his steering just a bit.

But what a great couple of days! Sorry I couldn't stay longer each day, but I'm happy and fortunate to have enjoyed a couple of nice little flights with a few friends. Over two consecutive days I counted thirty pilots taking advantage of the Kona winds to try their luck flying our two southside craters - that's got to be some kind of record.

Please add (or correct) any details if you can remember them - I'd love to hear them (or to stand corrected). And let's see your pictures too! I know I wasn't the only one snapping away.


Scrappy said...

I promised Sandy I would go first. I had a sledder after turning back 2 soon when the wind turned west. A really ugly spin landing put my butt in the water but my glider was high and dry. After running back up again she tried to get me to go first again but I insisted I had paid my dues and it was her turn... :o She took off and after a few passes was up and away.

I gave it a second go however could not seem to break away from the lower cliff line. Got a nice low flight for awhile as the winds got lighter and a small squall came in and killed the air.

We then went to Bob's to watch him wash his glider, eat some pizza and explain to Bob and Sandy what it meant to be "teabagged" along with pictures courtesy of the internet. And we watched some neat flying videos.

Parachute all dry now. Needs a repack...

sandy said...

It was not my first soaring flight there, but my first launch from the *middle* of the garden. The last time was from the east edge of the garden and landing was at the formerly open area near the lighthouse. So thanks very much for your reports of the day's earlier flights. I also owe BIG THANKS to Scrappy for going first, which prompted me to beg for more advice from JetFlap and Ray, which thankfully was spot-on for the no-mistakes-allowed light conditions.

I could've gotten a great shot of Scrappy with fabulous sunset lighting of his glider and the lighthouse, but like Alex I'll just have to keep that lovely image in my head until I become a painter because I was in too much of a rush to bother with my camera, and I didn't want to chance taking Ray's camera into the ocean. (I was borrowing his radio harness and I made him take out the camera so I couldn't hurt it. Doh! Trust me, the sunset soaring was gorgeous!)

paliglydr said...

What a privilege to finally fly Diamond Head. Thanks to Reaper for the good advice on getting up there in light lift. I managed to have the air over Diamond Head all to myself for about an hour and a half. It was magic. My landing, however, was... how shall I put it... Less than perfect? Ahem. Got low; coming in along the beach into the wind I decided I was still a bit too high and needed to do just 1 more little S turn. I didn't factor the wind into my calculations however, and my S turned into a big, sprawling Z. Ended up low and FAR from the beach. EEEK! Headed straight for dry land, trying to climb up my risers to delay the inevitable. Set my feet down just at the waters edge and literally hydroplaned up on to the sand. My wing flew out in front of me and landed on dry beach. I didn't even get salt water in my boots! I was >>>incredibly lucky<<< to squeak that one out.

Bob said...

Thanks for the post Alex. I wanted to post an article but it's darn busy and . . . . . Anyway it was a great day at Koko as you said, with so many gliders in the air. I was sorry to not have had my camera to help document the day but I'm sure glad I didn't have it a Diamond Head for my dunking. The Diamond Head day started out great as our job finished sort of early and Ray and I were free to go fly. The conditions had gone somewhat light and I was thinking of flying w/ Ray's tandem since I'm rather heavy on my wing. Ray launched first with a very interesting set up. He laid the wing on the rock wall that's adjacent to the sidewalk. Standing amonst the plants and bushes he pulled up in the light breeze. The first two attempts snagged on this or that. On his third try I held onto one of his tips and ran with it so that it wouldn't contact a snaggy bush and once past that bush, let it go. I think we're on to something in lauch techniques. I launched next. Some friends showed up and we chatted as I set up. I did my usual A's + C's not touching the brakes until I was airborne. As I scratched along trying to milk the lift it occured to me that there was something strange about the way my right brake felt. I looked up to find a nasty knot around the brake pulley that was limiting the travel of the brake line. If I had been high I could have sorted it all out and untied the line, but I was scratching and doing my best to stay out of the Keawe trees along the way. I ended up reaching above the pulley and just using the brake line itself to steer. This worked but wasn't really satisfactoy so I switched to the rear riser. On my down wind landing after four passes, I had switched to using both rear risers just to have semitry in my controls. Using rear risers as oppossed to brakes is rather mushey and I didn't seem to have the finnesse that I was hoping for on that strip of beach. Sploosh. There I was, once again, trying desperately to turn off anything w/ a battery while I wobbled waist deep in sea water. I've hated my cel phone for some time now and thought 'well what the heck, if it's dead so much the better'. So of course, the cel phone survived. I haven't tried the radio or the vario yet. To have good friends pick up pizza and Guinness and come to your house to help desalinize your wing is wonderful, I want to emphasize however that the responsibility of you, the pilot, to check your gear prior to launching is crucial. I had friendly distractions and by not doing a thorough check of my gear I ended up in the water at Diamond Head (Again)
Also, I'd like to encourage all pilots to practice steering with rear risers when up high with plenty of altitude, just to see what it's like. Let's fly.

sandy said...

Hey Bob, just to clarify, for anybody still learning their own A's& C's:
Don't you pop the brakes off of the snap and have them in your hand (though not using them) while working the A's & C's?

That's what I do, but from your description it sounds like you're not actually grabbing the brakes until after launch.

launch potato said...

I hate encumbering the hands, so just like for bigears I put the brake handles over my wrists as the only tweak to that very reassuring
-> mitsos reverse launch <-

Bob said...

Yes Sandy the brake handles are in my hands, but I don't put any tension on them on a good launch until I'm in the air. Sorry for the confusion.