Monday, September 07, 2009

Kahana Invitational Labor Day Fly-In

We just finished three days of stellar flying at Kahana in a cornucopia of conditions: northerly, easterly, gusty, light, rainy, dry, overcast, and cloudless. It felt like an impromptu fly-in, with lots of local pilots as well as visitors from many corners of the earth: Sacramento pilots James and Lorie, Sand City pilots Brian and Ashley, Big Island pilots Moku and Laurel, Maui pilots Rick and Paul, and Korean pilot Ikhee.

Dave did a great job on his writeup of Saturday's flying at Kahana - thanks, Dave! We had a great turnout, nearly twenty pilots: James, Lori, Jeff, Jim and me for the first shift, followed by Joey, Reaper, Bonnie, Nick, Dave, Thom (with Donna and Maile) Maui Doug, Jorge, Ray (with Noell and Blanca), JD, LeeAnn, Brian and Ashley. Plus anyone else I've forgotten. Thanks to Jim for the great lunchtime snacks.

Crossing the bay was the order of the day, and it was a laborious task indeed. I was super psyched to make it after a bunch of tries, and happy to have Dave's company above Kualoa. I heard that Frank was flying out at Makapuu.

Sunday was forecast to be dry and light but turned out to be neither. Jeff and Jim flew the early window but landed after a brisk hour in front of a big squall - the sensor was calling an average of 17 while they were up there. Yikes.

I came out later to see if it might work, to meet Moku, Laurel, James, Lori, Jim, Thom, Ginny, and Ikhee. We hiked up, watched a huge rain system churn towards us from the horizon, and ran back down just in time to stash our wings in our cars. We flew the cooler the rest of the day in drizzle and offshore winds. It was Ikhee's last day to fly - sorry about that!

Monday's roster included Jim, Steve, Ginny, Hillbilly, Joey, Reaper, Bonnie, Rich, Maui Rick, Maui Paul, Maui Doug, Ray (and friend), Jorge, me, Thom, James and Lori. After a big squall, the first session started on the north ridge, with some nice flying in fairly brisk conditions. Most folks landed in advance of another big squall, to take a lunch break, or to pursue other interests, but Joey and Hillbilly chose to ride out the storm. I toplanded to hide under a bush with Maui pilots Paul and Rick.

The second session featured a more easterly breeze, and we all launched from the inside ridge. After we'd flown for a while the clouds did something strange - they totally disappeared. The visibility was remarkable - we could see Makapuu and Molokai quite clearly. There were lots of really beautiful high cirrus formations, but not a cumulus cloud for miles around.

We got nice and high at Kahana, around 2,500 feet. From that height we heard Frank on the radio while he was flying at Makapuu. He said it had started kind of north out there but was turning almost L&V. We invited him to fly down and join us but I'm not sure he heard us.

After a while, some of us hopped downrange to see how high we could get at the next ridge. It was light and thermic at the front of the Punaluu ridge, and I had to work a bit to get into the back. At first, I had to work some thermals back there as well, but I soon found myself rising in a huge layer of incredibly strong, smooth and cold ridge lift.

I got as high as 3,300 easily, and probably could have got quite a bit higher, but at that height I was barely moving forward, and shivering from the cold, so I didn't wait around to top it out. I think it's been a couple of years since we've had a good day high above Sacred Falls with no clouds around - the wrinkly terrain around the Sacred Falls headwaters is always such an amazing sight, not to mention the views of Pearl Harbor, the Waianae Range, and Kaena Point.

I headed out from the Punaluu ridge, and Jorge and Jim followed close behind. Maui Rick decided he'd try to get back to Kahana, but landed at Punaluu beach after not quite making it. He walked all the way back to Kahana - those Maui guys are made of tough stuff!

The three of us had hopes of reaching Kahuku or Malaekahana on glide from our commanding position above Punaluu, but the strong onshore wind was nibbling away at our altitude as we crabbed our way over there. I arrived above Pounders with close to two grand, feeling like I could make it to Kahuku, but as I continued over Laie, I found I was sinking like a stone in the strong laminar airflow, so I reluctantly turned back for Pounders. Jim joined me down there as well, clipping a tree to make his landing more exciting. Jorge came in higher than we did, and probably could have made it across Laie, but he landed with me and Jim out of solidarity.

Thanks to Joey for the retrieve, and Maui Paul for his contribution to the refreshments. On our way back we picked up Maui Doug, who had just landed at Punaluu - in the water! The poor guy had been forced to make some last second course corrections as he tried to avoid fishing poles and strolling families at his intended destination.

What a busy weekend, and what great flying conditions. My only disappointment is that my DSLR camera is acting up, and I wasn't able to use it during a couple of the most scenic flights I can remember for a long time. It's error 99, the generic catch-all error number. I've got to troubleshoot the error and get it fixed before we have any more crazy gorgeous days like that. I just tried cleaning the lens contacts, and it seems like it might be working now - hopefully that's all it was.

No comments: