Monday, July 12, 2010

Humble Pie

I don't have any pictures or any video. I don't have any cool stories about crazy lift. I don't have any stories of epic XC's. All I have is my thankful attitude to be flying in Hawaii and a full dose of Humble Pie! It's been a little while since I have flown. I had to work, both here and abroad, and we all know that work gets in the way of good flying (especially when abroad is winter with a max temp of 14 degrees Centigrade). I got back and was able to fly on both the 11th and 12th.

The 11th was a day where many others had epic flights (possibly the MOST epic was Maui Doug's flight from Kahana to Sacred Falls, back to Kahana and then a downranger with Alex, Joey, and Maui Alex...not sure where they landed), but I just had a day that was low and out front. I WANTED to GO DOWNRANGE! I WANTED to have an EPIC XC! But, alas it was not to be. You see, I was only penetrating from 4 to 7 mph--to many of you that would be enough, but for me it was not. It was a north day at Kahana, and I wanted a little more in terms of penetration in order to move out.

Today however, was the flipside of the coin. It was a light day at Kahana, and East, 7 to 10 mph and 68 to 80+ degrees. I spent a long while getting up. I scratched like a baby fallen in posion oak and after an hour I was able to make Pu'u Piei. Alex and Maui Doug joined me, only to be set upon by the evils of light thermic devils! I cannot remember having seen Alex struggle so much in recent memory. He toplanded a few times before getting up, and (of course) surpassing me above Pu'u Piei. Maui Doug had hit a few light cycles, and as a result he chose to practice his toplandings and then headed for the beach.

Meanwhile, I was thinking of getting myself some XC action! I had scratched my way up, and waited for the very welcome company of Alex, when the unthinkable happened -- I hit weird massive sink just out from Pu'u Piei. I had been hanging out waiting for Alex to join me in a possible XC to Hauula or so. But, the wind had grown progressively east.

I cannot say I was rotored above Kahana, but I do feel that I hit some weird form of turbulence in the air. One minute I was sitting happily 2300 ft above Pu'u Piei, three or four minutes later I had stabilized at 1700 ft above the Kahana ridgeline. It was spooky disturbing -- just look at my GPS track (flight 62, 1:11:07:2329 ft to 1:14:29:1760)! I never left what should have been the lift band! I did not feel like I was mishandling thermic conditions. I just flat out got my a$$ kicked! I was spooked and I lost my confidence.

Just after this incident, Maui chose to land at Kahana and he reported northerly conditions -- to straight out at the beach(??). Alex and I were watching smoke from a fire in front of the Rhino horn go straight towards Hauula, while we also saw smoke from a fire in Punalu'u valley going straight up! This leads me to believe that the wind had turned so east that Kahana was blocking Punalu'u.

I decided (with great support/input from Alex and Maui Doug) to head to Punalu'u to land. It was just too east. I had a nice landing, albeit a little long, just past the bridge at Punalu'u. I had been crabbing and lining up my approach into 12 mph penetration at 800 ft, but when I got down lower, my penetration increased and as a result I went about 100 ft long on my approach. Luckily, I was able to tuck in behind an ironwood and neither I nor my wing got wet or suffered any damage.

So, here I sit, eating my Humble Pie, a little shaken from today's weird air, and yet a bit excited about the adventure that awaits tomorrow. I was facetious on Sunday and a bit negative before Jeff McStalker announced great conditions on launch, and today I was alone on launch but I knew reinforcements (Doug and Alex) were on their way. All along, Ginger was there for support and retrieve (thanks Hon!), and I have to say it makes a difference just having someone in the air with you, and here's to hoping you do not have to eat too much Humble Pie!

Here are the gps tracks:
Flight 61
Flight 62



Puka Wai said...

Duck, (or is it Le Canard, El Pato, or Die Ente now?)
Sounds more like you just got an introduction to thermals! On light days 2300 is pretty high to get over Puu Pei on ridge lift. No problem with a good thermal, but where air goes up, it also must come down somewhere. Sure, rotor may be a culprit but not likely on a light day. Just take along a can of whipped cream next time...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Puka Wai!!! I have been intorduced to thermals and this was not that...I will bring the whipped cream for future reference though!


Anonymous said...

Yup that was a thermal drop, had one yesterday at MPU trying to go down range, Alex and I got our asses kicked and twisted. I had a collapse and had enough so headed back to the playground. Mad Dog said that would get our bump tolerance up for Chamonix. Well if it gets like that I will be at the Wine Shop early. You want some more Humble Pie, read mine in the archives. "Lessons on Humble Pie" 2010 01 20

Alex said...

I don't think we have a good name for what happens at Kahana when the airflow goes super east. It's not really rotor or thermals the way we're used to feeling those phenomena. It's usually charactized by giant holes in the air in unexpected and random places. Often you get them as you are heading in to land at the beach and you find yourself in an elevator straight down over the bay. Sometimes you get them over the ridge and you find yourself sinking hard to try and land at north launch facing into the valley. I've had both of those experiences more times than I'd like.

Yesterday's log from the Punaluu sensor reports wind of 7-13 mph at 90 degrees for over an hour, starting right around the time Duck experienced his weird sink. We had been flying in nice light thermic stuff before that, with the normal amounts of lift and sink you would expect from light thermals. But what Duck ran into was more like a huge puddle of sink. A massive subsidence. At the same time that he was sinking hard over the front of the ridge, I was still riding some typical thermic lift up nicely in the back, but the drift direction was definitely way more east than usual. Maui Doug was landing around the same time, and I saw him kite his wing facing straight out to the NE. But he reported bumpy conditions on his landing approach, and I think he mentioned cat's paws - that's why we headed for a landing in Punaluu. Over there the airflow was way more easterly and a bit stronger than we expected, and we had to set up our landings straight along the beach into the wind - in fact the flow felt slightly angled offshore to me as I came down to the beach.

MauiDoug said...

Great write up Duck and congrats on your solo flying at Kahana. A big lesson learned for me yesterday was not checking the wind direction on the PUN sensor before my last launch. I was more focused on top landing practice and wasn't paying enough attention to the wind shift to the East! I would of been fine if I stuck my last top landing and hiked down, but the wind totally shut off and my air speed was just to much to force a TL. As I was heading to the beach LZ I noticed a bunch of cats paws with no movement in the trees. I prepared myself for some funky air which I got. It was the most active landing approach I have experienced in my two years of flying. I was lucky to land dry in the regular KNA LZ. After landing the PUN wind sensor confirmed a due East wind shift. Next time I am going to check the sensor before I launch!