Saturday, January 02, 2010

High Roler has landed - 01/01/10

When it's the first day of the new year and the wind is lightly out of the north and we can only fly one place, it pretty much narrows it down where to fly.  If there's one thing El Presidente taught me it's where to fly when it's pre-frontal and post-frontal (and I'm not talking about "The Messiah" President).

I thought there would be a parade of pilots sprinting up the trail but I was the only poor sucker.  Granted, Dillingham is a commitment - the drive (1 hour for me), and the hike (1 hour for me) - but it's the new year and you gotta make a bloody go of it, mates.  Since I couldn't find the trail head for the climber's rock wall (it's very clear on Google Earth) I opted for Kealia trail behind the airfield.

Someone has really cleared the launch and added a wind flag (visible from the road and blowing straight in) and created another launch just east of it - thanks.  I remember when a bunch of us went up there 4 years ago and we had to clear an area just to launch.  I got up there at 2:00 and was disappointed there was no reverse launchable wind - it's at 1000ft. for Chrysler's sake.  At 2:45 I swore I wasn't hiking down and called ATC and Dill's tower to make sure I wouldn't be shot at, and then violently ripped up that tired old Mantra with a running reverse and made the leap of faith - a true huck – similar to Fireman's 4 years ago (I remember thinking then, who's this crazy guy).

I thought I would have to scratch with such light winds but Doug is right - Dillingham is a great thermal site. I got up above launch to 1200 and crossed a valley to another face but didn't find much and did a 180. I got back below launch at 800 and worked the lift again. The launch ridge was working the best so I got up to 1400 and then cruised toward Kaena Point. I didn't think I'd get a long flight so I passed on my flight suit and regretted it – it was bloody cold above 1200 (typical on north days). It was all working great especially away from the ridge – not what I'm used to as a habitual ridge soarer.

I dodged the gliders as they were being towed up and flew for 2 hours to land at 5 and promptly called ATC to say "High Roler" has landed. Initially, ATC asked if I had a transponder (I'd heard discussions of this on paragliders in Europe) and then asked for my call sign – I gave them the name of a sailboat I raced on for 15 years. Security around the airfield is immense with HPD parked outside and Federal Air Marshalls parked at both ends of the runway. The airfield tower also asked if I needed the runway to land and I told them the grass strip adjacent to the hangars would be fine – but thanks for asking (Reaper showed me that LZ 4 yrs earlier).

I never noticed before, but the flight operations are "cowboy" at best, with gliders launching in one direction and the skydivers launching in the other direction - sometimes at the same time. The glider plane rises slower as the skydive plane quickly passes overhead. The glider tow plane pilot makes some impressive landings – he comes in on his downwind leg next to the runway cranks a turn almost touching the wingtip and spins around and touches down on one wheel and stops next to the gliders for the next tow – I guess you could call that pirouette a base leg and final.

I met Bill later and helped him push his plane into the hangar after he taxied next to me as I was packing up - he said he “hates wasting airspace.” He and Bob are friendly pilots (Honolulu Soaring) and they gave me all the room I needed when we were sharing the airspace. They were glad to see a paraglider and one of the skydivers even drove over to say Hi. Great way to start the new year amongst fellow afflicted and addicted. Happy New Year indeed!


Jonny Malmberg said...

Ahhhh, about 15 months ago when I first got my 6907... I was luck enough to score a three hour flight out there with the Oahy Monkey Crew. Alex helped me launch from the most crazy steep and snaggy spot. I only had to bust through head high bushes and only drew minor blood. Once in the air I was joined by Jorge, Alex, Maddog, and a few others, and ranged from the point all the way back to the airport!

When that places works is it magical!

frank said...

Yeah John, I remember that flight well. I flew with you that day too. That was an incredible day and the surf was raging. Those launches were the worst.

Unknown said...


Congratulations. You must have really been jones'in to go up to Dillingham. Glad you got a flight in and to write a story....WOW. I am truly impressed.

JeffMc said...

Frank - nice going, man! Way to show how it's really chased! Too bad you didn't find the climbing wall trailhead - but I know what you mean... I only know where it is from meeting Alex and Jim out there one day - it's not obvious.

Anonymous said...

Frank, you are the man, great write up I am sooooo jealous, I did not even get out of bed on the first and am still in recovery mode today.


Bon Bon said...


I wish we would have known you were going - we would've gone with you. I'm glad you got to fly. u da man! See you in the air (or on the water) soon! ;)

~Bon Bon

firedave2 said...

I followed Frank out to Dillingham, today Saturday to exploit the apparent TFR loophole. Frank was up on launch when I arrived and hiked up. I proceeded past launch with some serious bushwacking and explored the next valley over, before realizing my mistake. Frank was up on launch, talking to the Tower. He gave his handle 'High Roller' and turned and asked me mine. Uh, I don't know FireFly?
The wind was light and unfortunately blowing from all directions, then it decided it like some variation of downhill best. The windsock below looked straight west and gliders were crabbing toward the mountain on landing. I was getting ready to hike down.
A couple of hikers walked up Matt and Summer, turns out that Summer works with Nikki. The wind stopped blowing and there was a breath of wind blowing uphill once in a while. With three people holding up my wing and two tries I was off and flying. I hooked a pretty nice thermal over the quarry and climbed to about 1800'. Frank launched shortly after. The thermal I was in was nice, but the air around it was wierd and the track was away from the ridge over the airfield. There were some pretty strong gusts showing on the water toward Kaena Point from the SW.
We dicide to head in and land together by the hanger. As we are folding up, some official looking guys get out of some official looking cars. Their shirts say FAM, which I find out stands for federal air marshall. Apparently, I flew high enough to trip some Secret Service sensor, and they were sent to investigate. Nice guys, they knew us by our handles ' High Roller and Firefly', collected our information, made a few calls and headed out.
The interesting thing is how a paraglider was different than all the skydivers, sailplanes and assorted powered aircraft out there today. I guess the radar didn't like the parachute that was going up. Who knows?
I do thank Frank for clearing us with Dillingham Tower prior, so that everything was 'Otay', as Buckwheat says.

Jon Malmberg said...

Hey Frank, I remember now... You know that I have video from that day that I put together. I can send you a DVD when I get back to Hood River in a few months.

Throw me your address at The DVD is about 35 minutes long and had Dillingham, Maui, Lani Kai, and Makapuu (from Doug's goodbye BBQ) footage. Pretty sure you name along with a lot of other Oahu pilots appears in the credits.

Yeah, great day... And I now remember spiraling down over you... Footage is in the vid.

See ya, Jonny Rotten

Alex said...

Nice flight, Frank. That's one of my favorite places to fly - and it's less of a commitment for me than for most of you. Only a 45 minute drive, and only 15 minutes hike up the climbing wall trail to the launch there. That's second only to Kahana in terms of convenience for me. Frank, if you or anyone is ever interested in going out there PLEASE give me a shout!