Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sidehill, this article is especially for you and your special home grown Kona coffee drinking pleasure. I hope you and the whole BI crew are getting lots of smooth lifty air time over on the Big Island!

The past couple of days have been great flying at Makapuu. Tuesday was a para-park day with everyone launching from Manics. Mad Dog and Reaper were making the top landings look so easy.

Some of the construction crew guys confirmed that six poles and wires are coming down soon. The six poles start behind Manics and end at Crazys. Wednesday was on the stronger side ENE 10-15, so Crazy Man's was the call and working great. It felt good to get multiple flights from both launches to say farewell to those pesky power poles.

Yesterday was a big day for me. It's been many flights, about 100 or so, that I have been pondering doing a full stall. I've been studying various instructional videos and getting lots of info from many pilots. Thanks Duck, for sharing the play by play of your most recent SIV clinic experience. Thanks everyone, for all of your input - especially Pete for keeping an eye on me!

I needed to face up to the fact that I had been talking myself out of doing a full stall because... I was either not high enough, or not out over the water enough, or it was too bumpy, or I just wasn't in the right mood, or maybe I was actually just too darn scared! I know once I face my fear it will disappear! So here goes...

One full stall went good

On my second flight I found myself at 2300' in really smooth lifty air at the North end of the Makapuu ridge. The Rabbit rotor was on the LZ, so I was on a very smooth glide towards Rabbit Island and realized that the cloud suck was keeping me up. I was now a good distance out over the water and away from the ridge. To my right, I could see Pete in his tandem flying with me about 100 yards away. That was when I heard a thought pop into my head: "Hey, now would be the perfect time to try a full stall! I'm high enough, out over the water enough, the air is smooth enough, and now I have a very experienced instructor close enough to keep a good eye on me."

I radioed Pete and asked, "Hey Pete, would you mind keeping an eye on me as I am going to attempt my first full stall?". Pete replied, "Sure dude, go for it!". Pete then briefed me on the full stall procedure, which confirmed what I had been studying. I quickly practiced my hand positions a few times without my handles just to instill some muscle memory.

I began to very slowly brake my DHV 1-2 U-Turn Obsession II. I paid close attention to where the stall point actually is. I was surprised to learn how deep into the brakes I could go before all hell brakes loose. As soon as I felt the sensation of falling backwards I very aggressively buried the brakes behind my back with my elbows locked and twisted. I was so focused on not allowing a pre-mature brake release!!!

"Holy S@#%!" I thought to myself, as I felt the whole stable world getting ripped away! Then, I heard Pete say "Your looking good, now let your hands come up about a quarter of the way." I raised my brakes about a quarter and could see a more stable wing and then I slowly eased up on the wild horse brakes to hands up and felt the wing surge forward. I did a minimal brake check as I let the wing regain her forward momentum. During the brake release I felt one hand jerk up which caused a 90 degree turn to the right as I regained normal flight. After a very fast turn, I looked up to see my wing looking normal!

"Whoa, what a rush!" I thought as I was feeling the effects of a huge dose of adrenaline.

I then felt the relief of anxiety and the emergence of joy as I had just successfully faced a little fear that was starting to grow into an annoying nuisance. I landed in the Rabbit rotary LZ just in time to meet Joey and his Hummer shuttle back to Crazyman's. Thanks Joey for the ride and for your encouraging full stall tips.

One full stall went bad

I launched my third flight of the day with the thought of maybe doing another full stall. I quickly gained altitude and saw Joey getting great lift up over the lighthouse. I heard Joey say, "Hey everyone the lift is awesome over here! Come on over."

I couldn't resist the invite, so I tanked up above Cactus and made my way out to join him. It was the highest I have ever soared over the lighthouse. Soon Reaper joined us with his second tandem ride along with Bob Bird showing us all the way.

As I saw Tommy and Bonnie starting to make their way over to the lighthouse, I headed back to the main ridge to make room for them. Once at the main ridge I was going up like never before. I soon found myself up at 2200' over the North end again. I was heading out towards Rabbit Island again and noticed that Pete was once again in close visual proximity.

We all were watching Andrew heading towards Puu O Kona, which almost had me changing my mind from full stall mode to XC mode. Congrats Andrew on your XC!

But, I was not going to let myself talk me out of another great opportunity to do another full stall. By now, all the flying monkeys had gathered high above the North end.

I once again radioed Pete and let him know I was going for it again. Pete confirmed his visual on me and I began to slow my wing down again. I felt the whole world slip away once again as I was violently thrown onto my back. The feeling of weightlessness and free falling backwards looking up at me feet over my head is something that may take a long while for me to get comfortable with, if ever?

I once again raised my hands a quarter of the way, but noticed I was now starting to rotate. Afterwards, I realized that I was still too deep in the brakes to let my wing stabilize. As I was slowly raising my hands, I started to see a twist developing. I was now thrashing and rotating as I went to hands up. I wasn't liking this very much at this point. Pete later said that I held the full stall way too long. I felt a huge surge forward with another more drastic right turn. I then looked up to see a 25% cravat in my right wing tip as I then felt an extremely accelerated spiral entry. The thought of throwing my reserve entered my mind, but thankfully all I heard back was a very loud... "FLY THE WING!!!"

I just made one full rotation when I realized that I needed to massively weight shift in the opposite direction immediately!!! I also pulled a little brake on the left and instantaneously felt the spiral energy start to dissipate. THANK GOD for DHV 1-2 wings!

I now notice that my comfort zone and ridge clearance were dwindling. Pete then asked, "What's your altitude?". "700 feet", I replied back. Joey then said, "Pump that cravat out with your stabilo line!". Just then I relaxed in my seat to being flat in my harness and looking to grab one little red line that was now all gathered into a tightly mangled mess of lines, just then my wing took another sharp out of control right turn. I was now heading straight downwind towards the now fast approaching ridge. The thought entered again, "Throw it now, but I heard back again... "FLY THE WING!!!"

I immediately stopped fumbling with my stabillo line and focused on how to fly my wounded bird. I needed to let the spiral energy to start again to turn me away from the ridge, so I let the left wing fly and weight shifted a little to the right. I started a more controlled turn away from the now very quickly approaching ridge. I once again was heading seaward. "Whoa that was close!" I said out loud.

I then spent the next couple of minutes getting used to the new weight and brake inputs necessary to control my direction. I pulled a left big ear to match my flapping 5 feet of right wing tip. I now could sit flat and fly straight. I now could hold a steady course away from the ridge. I was at 600' and now started to mess with the stabilo line. I finally fished it out of the tightly gathered mess of lines and started the pull then yank on it to no avail. I realized that the cravat was permanent.

I knew I was now too low for another cravat clearing full stall and to low to make it back to the regular LZ. I then started looking for a user friendly Waimanalo Beach landing zone. It was now high tide and all of the beaches within my glide ratio looked really small. At 500 feet I decided on my target and only focused on it. It was very awkward flying my wing! I quickly realized that I could only control very slow and gradual turns. The wing wanted to always be turning to the right once I let out the big ear. I had to fly with a permanent left weight shift to fly straight. As soon as I sat flat the wing went right. The left brake worked like usual, so now I started to practice a few "S" turns to get the feel. It was very sketchy steering and I knew I had to judge my approach perfectly to hit the ten foot wide beach.

I made my final turn way too slow and wide and found myself a little too low and more out to sea than I would like. I was now flying downwind and knew I didn't have enough height to make a cross turn to fly more into the wind and along the shoreline. I was now only focused on making the water line and knew I would be coming in hot. I took wraps as high as I could and prepared for a legs up air bag landing.

I was so stoked that I spot landed the exact place that I was so focused on. I flared as hard as I could ten feet before impact and felt the air brake kick in as I heard a loud "POOF!" from my airbag as I hit the beach. My glider then frontalled into a huge row of velcro bushes and grabbed my wing only ten feet from the highway. I was down safe and dry, until the next wave came in and gently washed out my newly soiled diaper.

I then stood up and felt a renewed gratitude for God and my Guardian Angels as I said out loud, "THANKS GOD, FOR GETTING ME DOWN SAFE!"

Just then, a tourist van filled with Hoosiers from Indiana came to my rescue. They pulled over and all hopped out. "Are you OK? We saw the whole thing!" the Hoosiers said.

"I'm fine, thanks to God and my big bertha air bag with extra padding! All I have are wet boots and a soggy diaper! Thankfully, my electronics and reserve are dry! "

"Can we help you out?" they asked.

"Yes, could I please get a ride back to my van and a hand getting my wing de-Velcro'd from these bushes?"

"You got it!" said Razel and the Hoosiers.

Thanks so much to Razel the driver and owner of his Island Touring Company for the ride back to my van. Thanks so much to all of the Hoosiers (that live 30 minutes away from Bonnie's home town) for all of your help in getting my gear safely into the van. Thanks so much Pete and Joey for your helpful radio support. Thanks Frank for the big wingover demo. Thanks BonBon for filming my adventure, hopefully you can add it to this story after video editing.

Also, it was great to meet and fly with the newest Oahu Flying Monkey who recently moved here from Jackson Hole. Welcome to the monkey barrel! Thanks JH Matt for sharing some old time pilot wisdom that I haven't heard yet and today was definitely the right day for me to hear it!

JH Matt said, "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots! But, there are no old bold pilots!"

The moral of this story is.. FLY THE WING FIRST!!! And THEN, sort out the issues.

My next full stall will ONLY be at a SIV clinic, just in case it all goes bad again! I would much rather be sorting it all out over a calm lake with a chase boat rather than a fast approaching ridge face.

Well, now I'm off to untangle my lines, dry my harness and boots, and get back on my horse


With much Aloha and a renewed respect for our sport and gratitude for God!



Anonymous said...

WHEW!!!! You had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Great detail and clear descriptions. Excellent, thanks.

Kaawa Larry

Mad Dog said...

Aloha Douglas,Proud it all went well for you, although in god we trust as the coins & bills say, only you & knowledge pulled out the finishing landing. SIV probably the best Idea! My French instructor in Chamonix 15 years ago told me never to even try that type of clown foolery (to dangerous)so to this day I never have! Although I'm (hoping)positive I can do what it takes with past experience to recover from whatever happens. God has no roll in this just your input...
Your input well done this time Maui.

Nick said...


Relieved you're okay! Great story and funny line about "gently washed out my soiled diaper..."

I applaud your decision making! At least you only tried the stall under the watchful eye of an instructor. You obviously owe Reaper a ton of beer.

In AF pilot training, they burned this mantra into my head to apply anytime there is an emergency:

1. Maintain aircraft control
2. Analyze the situation
3. Take the proper action

Looking forward to the video. Again, glad you're safe and all your electron's are good!


P.S. a ton (short ton) of beer is about 2,600 bottles. I recommend bottles.

Bon Bon said...

That was.....AWESOME!!!! im so glad you totally handeled it and came out ok. Also glad u announced it so i could video it.

I learned a lot just watching u....cant wait to try it!!! Haha

Go Hoosiers!!!

Great write-up. Mahalo,


Anonymous said...


WOW! I for one am glad to see you conquered your fear! I really do think that the fear of performing the stall for the first time outweighs the fear of actually stalling for the first time. I am glad you are ok and glad that you could fly the wing to a safe landing. I have to reiterate how much value there is in the SIV course--you are wearing a life jacket and you have a boat ready to assist if things go wrong.

I have a few clean diapers if you need one...that was a great line!

It's amazing how much something like a bad stall can shake you up. Glad to see you made good decisions and came through well. Your description was well written and detailed. Thanks for taking the time to share.


Waianae Jim said...

Great write up Doug - thanks for sharing your experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for my coffee Read Doug !!!

I got half way through the story and my coffee started kicking in but I had to keep reading.

You did it, full stall and the another with some extra curricular learning as well.

I have not been able to read Windlines since Wed. due to no Wi-Fy here in Volcanoe. Now staying at a B&B in Pahoa with wi-fy so I am catching up.

Congrats on safe landing, you are a good pilot, but never hurts to have the Big Guy on your side.

Aloha See you all on the 25th.


Anonymous said...

Hey Doug,

Get on the SIV sooner rather than later. It will teach you a ton and then full stalls will be child's play, and you will be able to fly around all day and even land on half of your wing. A correctly done full stall is our big "RESET BUTTON", and invaluable to dealing with the biggest messes. Landing in water in a full stall is actually a very mellow thing...

Check out the schedule at and get on board with Mr. Gunnuscio!

Great story, and trying your first stalls in the wild is pretty nerve fraying experience.

Jon Malmberg

Bon Bon said...


Maui, I LOVE that song, too! It just happened to be playing on my phone as I had my music shuffled.
Actually, my buddy, Mike Shelton, wrote and played that song on the piano!! He's amazing!

MauiDoug said...

Thanks everyone for your input! I appreciate you all in sharing your flying wisdom with me!
Many Mahalos :-) MauiDoug