Saturday, October 10, 2009

Three to Kam 3

After at least a couple of years of talking and thinking about it, the conditions finally lined up, and Reaper, Joey, Alaska Jack and myself made an early morning pilgrimage over to Maui yesterday to fly from the top of Haleakala.

I was so excited about the prospect when I went to sleep on Thursday that I mostly just tossed and turned, finally giving up and getting up aroud 3:15 a.m. to check if the weather still looked good for our flight. Luckily it still did, so off we went on the 6:00 a.m. flight.

Haleakala still looked relatively clear as we arrived on Maui. We got picked up by Cliff Rider, one of Reaper's old students, and his girlfriend Michelle. Soon we were off up the winding road to the Haleakala summit, after stopping in Kula to meet with some other Maui pilots (Rick, Abhay, and a couple others, I forgot their names). We made another stop at the crater lookout since Joey and Michelle hadn't been to see that before. Then it was onward to the skyline, beyond the Haleakala park boundaries where we all were going to launch.

All of our stops had taken a bit too long, and we arrived at launch a bit later than Reaper would have liked - the clouds were starting to develop and move in. We tried to get our act together quickly. A couple of the Maui pilots that live in Kula got off and flew down toward their house.

Our goal was Kamaole Beach Park III. Reaper made the valiant attempt in some rotor, followed almost immediately by Cliff. As he was running down he yelled back up the hill "rotor, rotor" and made a hasty landing a couple hundred feet down the hill on some nasty lava rocks. Cliff killed his wing when Reaper started yelling so didn't get too far down the hill.

Joey got off in a good cycle while Cliff and Reaper rested after recovering their wings from the snaggy rocks with help from Abhay. My first launch attempt sucked - I didn't run fast enough and had way too much brake on. While I gathered for a second attempt Reaper and Cliff got off. Alaska Jack did a forward launch from a spot slightly off to the left from where they had launched.

Maui Rick helped me set up again in the spot that Jack had used and I was able to pull it off on this try. Flying immediately into the clouds, this was going to be "fun". Abhay and Rick got off on their own after my departure. I broke out of the clouds after a couple minutes and snapped a couple quick pictures. I was amazed at how cloudy it had gotten so quickly and really only saw Reaper for a moment or so before going back in the white room.

About half of my flight was in the clouds, but luckily my GPS was working and Abhay and Rick had given excellent instructions on how to find the LZ. Joey was the true pioneer, making it there first, and was able to give me and Reaper some greatly appreciated ground condition reports. When I finally did break out into clear skies the feeling of relief was intense. I savored our flight as I worked in over Kihei, only momentarily contemplating working on my flatland skill when I hit some thermic air as I approached. I followed Reaper in to the LZ - we had all made it, and were all so stoked to have made the trip. Let's do it again: a little earlier on launch, and on a clearer day, it would be "epic".


firedave said...

Sounds like a great flight boys, I would like to do it myself someday. Jim: Did you really land in Lahaina or was it Kihei? That would have been a hell of a sledder to Lahaina.

Sharky said...

That's definately Kihei in that last shot. Lahaina is about 20 miles further north and west. Now that would be a flight!

I'm hoping I'll get a shot at it one day soon. Sounds like a lot of fun!

How long was the total flight time from top to bottom?

Alex said...

Jim asked me to correct his story - he meant to write Kihei but somehow it came out as Lahaina. I was pretty impressed until he called me about the correction.

Waianae Jim said...

For those that are curious I put my GPS track for the Haleakala sled ride on Leonardo here

Alex said...

What happened to Alaska Jack and Cliff? Didn't they ever make it out of the clouds to join you guys?

Joey said...

After getting throught the clouds, the valley winds were super strong and both Cliff and Jack landed out prior to the LZ, however they humped it in to goal :) We all managed to celebrate the momentus occasion together over some frosty torps..HPA drink of choice. Hopefully the next opportunity can be shared with a few more Oahu pilots...its definitely a flying experience I will personally never forget. (Thanks Reap!!)

Waianae Jim said...

Maui Rick made it to the park too, Abhay landed short and hoofed over to join the celebration too.

Jule said...

I'm soooooooooooo jealous.. here it rains all the time and its cold, just round about 48°F :( - season for flying is over..

Jack Brown said...

Geez... I felt like I was at work -only a bit more drafty.... I think I was gliding above the cloud deck for over half an hour... Never did actually descend into the clouds. When I finally got out front, I headed down to the old Maui Prince in Makena, and then when I turned to head back up the beach to Kehei, the winds switched on and I go drilled all the way from 4000.. less than 5mph in spots.. epic flight! Thanks Reaper for making it happen!