Monday, March 16, 2009

Koko Head Heroes

A record troop of ten pilots launched at Koko Head and soared for hours in yesterday's sweet sunny southwest conditions, and almost every one of them landed back on top, some relaunching for multiple flights.

The flying got off to a slow start in the morning. We met at Koko Head, found the customary schoolside landing zone to be full of softball players and their cheering families, then zoomed over to Diamond Head where it was too cross and light, then rushed back to Koko Head and hiked up with the intention of finding alternative landing options. We saw One-Eye Jim at Diamond Head but he opted not to follow us to Koko Head this time.

As we soared at Koko Head, we discussed the alternative landing options. (If it sounds like we all launched without really knowing where we'd be landing, well, I guess that's about right - we're paraglider pilots after all.) We wondered if we could make it all the way across the bay to the beach over towards the boat ramp, but no one was quite confident enough to try it. I made a sidehill landing at one point, but it was quite challenging to set it up in the strong gusty flow coming up the hill, and it seemed like a pretty sketchy option, so I relaunched to consider better alternatives. Dave suggested I try landing at the tiny China Walls park - eewwww. Then visitor Jonie showed us all the perfect spot to set down, right on top, in the big grassy plateau just south of the Vortac paddock, where the airflow tapers off to a smooth laminar breeze just like it does at Cactus or the old Lazy Man plateau.

Dave headed over towards the Crater in hopes of starting an XC trip - the clouds on the range were high and the air seemed nice and thermic. But he came in quite low and had to land at the District Park below. Then he decided to redeem himself with a plan to turn his little sled ride into the first leg of a heroic X-Alps style flight, by hiking from the park right up the southwest flank of the Crater to relaunch and continue his mission. Of course we all know we're not supposed to fly on that side of the Crater (because of the incident that caused the firing range to be shut down when a bunch of visiting pilots tried it before). But I guess it's okay if you happen to be Fireman Dave! Plus he did buy us a lot of beer afterwards. In any case, our local hero wasn't actually able to stay up, and had to land at the football field shortly after getting off.

At the end of the day, all the remaining pilots toplanded in the grassy plateau on top, then watched as Reaper relaunched for a sunset tandem flight with visiting pilot Deanna from Portland, who happened to be snorkeling at Hanauma when she noticed us twirling overhead. Scrappy joined them for one last flight as well. The rest of us all packed up and hiked down to run over to Diamond Head for one last look, since the wind had clocked slightly more south by that time. I got my wing out and kited at the takeoff, but it just wasn't strong enough. So we had to content ourselves with cold beverages and scantily clad scenery. Scrappy finally joined us as well, after having toplanded again to make the heroic hike down. It was the least he could do, considering he'd hitched a ride to the top in the back of a fisherman's truck!

Reaper called me later to say he'd landed with Deanna in the customary schoolside landing zone, where he was mobbed by cheering softball players and greeted like a hero. I'm glad it worked out so well this time - the last time our guys landed down there, some concerned neighbors called the police, and the consensus was that we'd avoid the field when there were kids in the park playing games. But I guess it's okay if you happen to be the Reaper! Plus he was certainly very helpful with the multiple tandems for friends and visiting pilots.

But as I look back on yesterday's epic all-day flying adventure, I am convinced that the true heroes of the day were the pilots who made the voluntary choice to land on top and trudge back down the long path to the bottom, in a show of solidarity and respect for our original kooky plan, with most of them making that toplanding for the first time ever. You guys are the best.

Thanks to everyone who came out and made it such a fun day: Frank, Berndt, Scrappy, Nick, Fireman Dave, Reaper, Arizona Chandler, visiting pilot Carson from Washington, Idyllwild Jonie and his buddy Rich, and visiting pilot Deanna. Thanks to Reaper for flying tandem not only with Rich but also again with Deanna. Thanks to Dave for the frosty refreshments. And thanks to Jonie for the pictures. If anyone else has pictures, please share them and I'll link them into this article.


Gravity said...

Great day. 4 1/2 hours of flying tandems and hiking up sure takes a toll on ya. Sorry, about having to be my usual rule breaking Reaper, but Deana had to catch a ride to the airport, and I'm not so sure I could've walked down after being squeezed by passengers all day. But, it was definitely worth it.

DaveZ said...

My brother called me yesterday from his dive boat out in Moanalua bay, "There's 8 paragliders flying the face of Kokohead!" He's been running charters there for 20 yrs., and hadn't seen it before. He was shocked that I already knew about it from the Chatter Box. Too funny. Cheers.

Gravity said...

All day long my customers in Portlock & Hawaii Kai were telling me they saw us flying over their houses. They were very excited to see us.
Even the girls at The Shack....