Friday, October 17, 2008

Saint Stalker

Many local pilots have enjoyed helping visitors get into the air here over the years. Sometimes that means going out to fly when we don't really have time for it (but we just have to force ourselves), and often it means we may be last off the hill. Recently I seem to have grown a bit selfish and lazy, often hucking off first "to test the air" and leaving visitors in the care of other local pilots who happen to be on the hill. Yesterday, I stranded James and Lorie from Sacramento with Jeff, and he stepped up to remind me what it means to treat visitors with Aloha.

Jeff had mentioned on the hike up that it had been many weeks since he'd had a good cross country flight, and we were both excited because the conditions seemed nice and light, perfect for a downranger. We got to low launch, and I felt compelled to go first - to test the air, of course - and then I buzzed around mid launch while Jeff took time to help Arizona Chandler clear his wing from snags and settle in to wait for a perfect cycle there. Meanwhile, after a couple of touch-and-goes at upper launch, I got tired of buzzing around and waiting, and climbed my way up to a chilly 2,500 feet over the summit. The clouds were nice and high, and the downrange vista was beckoning. Chandler finally launched, and worked his way up to join me high over Puu Piei, and we started making XC plans. And finally, I did have one unselfish thought: it occurred to me that maybe we should wait for Jeff!

Finally we saw Jeff get visitor Lorie from Sacramento launched, and then after a while he hiked down to low launch with her husband James to help him huck off in what turned out to be increasingly strong wind. By this time I had been in the air over an hour, and I was feeling bad for Jeff, so I buzzed down there to check on him. I toplanded next to him as he was getting ready to launch, and it was clear that by now the wind had become too strong for the pleasant XC flight we had planned. I think Jeff probably launched close to a couple of hours after he had arrived, and was only able to fly a short flight in the late strong conditions.

Jeff set a perfect example of how to treat visitors today. He's not an instructor, nor a club officer (yet), he's just a super nice guy, who was willing to help three visitors get off the hill before he launched himself. In my defense, all I can say is this: I'm just glad I didn't burn downrange with Chandler right away! I can just imagine how Jeff would have felt answering my call for a ride back from Pounders...!

As we were landing, RT and Alan launched and flew a quick late session in the increasing winds. It was Alan's first flight without Pete - great job! We heard later that while we were at Kahana, Pete had been at Lanikai flying a tandem along with Jorge, and they were showing some Aloha by helping Alaska Tom get a flight in over there.


JeffMc said...

Aww shucks, thanks Alex!

I was more than happy to get James and Lorie in the air; both of them were thrilled to get their first decent Kahana flight. You didn't lack Aloha at all - I know they'll appreciate your photos of them in the air as much as my assistance on the ground.

They'll be other XC days - hopefully this weekend!


firedave said...

I just want to say thanks to Jeff for taking the time to help out a visiting pilot, I do appreciate what you do.

Alex, being first off the hill to "test the air" is definitely a noble task, especially on a strong day.

I think after all these years, that I can sort of see alifecycle in this sport. First, you start out new, soaking up any bit about flying that you can find and trying to feel "one" with this whole flying thing.

A year or so later, you are so stoked about all you have learned about the flying and how far you have progressed, that you are stoked to share it with anyone and everyone. Helping others to fly, giving site intros and possibly getting your tandem rating, to show others how much fun you have.

Third, which is where I am at, you are tired of trying to make money doing tandems and do it for fun and favors. You don't get out to fly as much as you want, so when you do you just rip into the air, and try to do something new. You are always there looking for subtle clues into the black art of advanced flying, like thermalling or acro. I love flying with company, but expect to be going it alone, so as not to be disappointed.

Fourth, you become like Reaper, and have pretty much done it all, so you start cherry picking days and are content to hang around the cooler and pass on the knowledge to the new guys.

Fifth. You ride motorcycle, kite surf, scuba dive or just don't fly much, if at all, but you remember the epic flights forever.

There is one more category that a pilot can fall into at any time. That is when your fear is stronger than the pleasure you get while flying and you just can't seem to enjoy it like you used to. We have all seen this type of pilot over the years, come and go out of the sport too soon.

So, help out your fellow pilot when you can, I know I have done my share over the years, as have most of you. But, as you know if there is another capable pilot willing to assist, than I volunteer to be the wind dummy.

Keep flying!

Annelies said...

Hey guys its so nice to hear about your spirit for helping others. Speaking of that. I will be on the island from Dec. 13-18 than off to the big island from the 19-26... Would love to fly with you all.... xc with you all.... and will take all the help on launch I can get... oh and up the mountain for that matter -though I am bringing my dad with me and I hear he works for a papaya! hugs to you all and see you soon... cant wait.