Friday, May 08, 2009

Supremely Epic Day at the Para Park

The flying at Makapuu on Wednesday started out ordinarily enough, with easy launches from Manics and Cactus and just a few of us soaring the ridge under a low cloudbase. But as more people showed up, and the wind conditions sweetened to pure perfection at Manics, it became clear that it was turning into a very special day.

A hint of what was to come can be seen in Steve's faithful chatterbox reports from his vantage point at the Makai Pier: "MPU 4 PG's in the air. Plus a fifth one kiting the wall at the lookout."

Since the construction of the lookout a few years ago, we have been launching primarily from the squalid little depression sometimes known as Manics, a hairy armpit of a gap between the highway, parking lot and lookout terrace. But on this day we banded together, rose up and proudly reclaimed the entire area, launching and landing and touching down on every conceivable surface, to the delight and occasional terror of the growing crowd of onlookers. We left no parking space, handrail, staircase, walkway or retaining wall untouched.

We soon realized that we had stumbled into an impromptu all day and night gala grand opening flying festival for the Makapuu Para Park. Dave said he figures the day ranks in the top ten ever fun days of buzzing around out there. I think it was surely the most fun we've ever had without going anywhere. We had almost 20 pilots out there, on a weekday no less, including 6 visiting pilots (Tim from Chicago and assorted members of the Telluride 420 Local).

Picture a dozen or more wings simultaneously darting in and out of the lookout canyon, landing, touching down, relaunching, and periodically taking breaks to refuel as necessary. McStalker got it right in his chatterbox summary at the end of the evening: "Lots of hijinx, mayhem, and para-tomfoolery at Manics today. I think there were some shenanigans and monkey business, as well."

We also had the distinct pleasure of seeing some long lost souls out there. Dave, Bob, Quentin and I were scheduled to meet at Bob's house at 4 for a board meeting and to tidy the place up for this weekend's general meeting and party. Instead, we convinced both Bob and Quentin to come out and get back into the air after about a year of combined downtime between them. Welcome back to the air, guys! Let's not wait so long between flights now, okay? We somehow managed to conduct a slightly impaired board meeting at the Manics wall, and Quentin kindly let us all off the hook for the cleanup at Bob's by offering his own (already tidy) house as a venue for the upcoming festivities on Saturday. What a bonus! Thanks, Q!

As daylight faded and the full moon rose into the sky over the lighthouse, a few local pilots took off to join the Telluride boys for the last session of the day. For many of us that was the most magical flight we can remember. I won't soon forget the sight of the lighthouse a few hundred feet directly below me, as it aimed its bright lamp in all directions to illuminate the ridge and the evening sea mist. I felt like a moth compelled to orbit that spinning flame.

But the long perfect day was marred at the end by a tragic note, when visitor Josh from Telluride spun his wing as he banked his final approach turn at the bottom of the LZ, and badly injured his back. Thanks to everyone who helped out by calling 911 right away and attending to him, and thanks to the EMS and fire rescue guys who wasted no time showing up. Josh is schedule for surgery today at Queen's to repair his crushed T11 vertebra - if I find out his room number I'll post it here in case anyone wants to stop by to say hello. I'm sure he could use the moral support - most of the Telluride crew had to leave yesterday.

At some point earlier in the afternoon, Dave had voiced an uncharacteristically anxious premonition as he observed the swarm of wings buzzing the lookout from high above - something about how he thought we'd inevitably get in trouble for what we were doing. I'm sure that's true on some level, for all of us. Hopefully in the long run our experiences will add up to an overall positive balance. Let's send some of those positive vibes Josh's way, so he can heal quickly and fully.

And I hope to see all of you at the Para Park again someday soon. I took a few pictures and posted them, and I included some shots that Nightshift sent me. I will be linking Jeff's video here as well. Any more pictures or footage? I know wireman Tim and Reaper took a bunch of shots. Let's see them!

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