Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Diamond Head Desperadoes

Many desperate souls were drawn to Diamond Head today in search of airtime, to celebrate the end of our enforced hiatus. Conditions were far from ideal, but that didn't stop many of us from giving it a try. For those that made it up, it was the first flight of the new year, as well as the first flight since the end of the TFR, and for me it was my first time back in the air after almost four weeks of downtime!

The sky over Diamond Head was gray and overcast, but at least there was no threat of rain. The wind was quite a bit west of the ideal due south direction, and (perhaps because of that) it was also sweeping through a bit stronger than we prefer, but we were determined to make it work. I launched first, with Thom's assistance, and apparently made it look easy enough. I was soon followed by Mad Dog, who also made it look pretty sweet. Once we got up, the best lift was definitely past the lighthouse on the Waikiki side. The airliners were zooming by closer than usual, with the occasional military cargo plane or fighter jet to liven things up. I flew with a nice Iwa for a while. Whales were jumping, and cargo ships and cruise ships were floating by just outside of our range. It was strong enough up high that we had to be careful not to get too close to the ridge, and it was easy to get up high out over the water.

Despite the apparent ease of the first two lucky launches, the wind flowing into the pathway area was actually quite swirly and gusty, and most folks found it a struggle to get launched. Ray got into some trouble with the trees behind the launch, and when I came back up from my first beach landing, I found him taking a break up there with Thom, Maui Doug, Joey, student Mike, prospective student Brent from Canada, our frequent German visitor Jule, and a friend of Joey's in a lawn chair.

Joey made several launch attempts, frustrated by the swirly and gusty air, and finally got himself up and out of there with his usual style. Ray made another brave attempt as well, but on his way out of the gap he got snagged by a poorly placed dead tree, which brought his flight to an abrupt and dramatic end. We rushed to help him get his wing out of the tree, and if I do say so myself, we managed to do our usual excellent job of harming the tree as little as possible as we extricated Ray's wing.

I had just a few minutes left before I had to pick up the kids, but I couldn't resist one more quick flight: a brief tour of the lighthouse, a sortie up towards the lookout, and a beeline back down to the beach. Top landings were not an option today, because the wind was sweeping by so strong and westerly, so we all landed down at the bottom of the trail. Jorge showed up just as I was leaving, but I heard he opted not to try his luck in the cross conditions.

It was definitely not the best kind of day that Diamond Head can deliver: it was grey, quite cross and strong, and we couldn't topland or even buzz the launch area. Many locals and visitors decided not to take chances with the marginal conditions. But a few of us actually flew today! Without worrying about Secret Service snipers or anything! And it was great as always just to hang out with the guys and have some fun. Thanks to Brent for the post-flight refreshments. I hope he follows through on his interest in the sport.

1 comment:

Mad Dog said...

Alex it's so good to have you back in the skies with us! Many Mahalo's for the first pics of my new Sol Torck soaring the heavens.
Thanks to Joey & his friend, Jules, Ray, who came over to my humble abode after for a cold Torpedo & a story or two while Ray tought me how to repack my reserve chute. Kiteboarding & Paragliding all in the same day!!! 2010 is starting out on track...