Friday, September 24, 2010

Flying with the Angels

I am really behind on my work, so today I tried hard to stay home and ignore the call of the wild. I figured it would be easy, because the wind was super light and the numbers were making it look like Makapuu would be the only game in town. I couldn't afford the time to drive that far, and I was relieved to think I'd have one day where I wouldn't be tormented by the sight of anyone flying outside my window at Kahana. And then Maui Doug called.

He said he had just arrived at Kahana, and he could see Portland Tim launching from north launch, and scratching, and slowly getting up. Come on guys, really? The Punaluu sensor was reading 5 mph average at 60 degrees. How could Tim be getting up, from north launch, in such light easterly conditions? Well, I would just have to personally investigate this strange turn of events. Maui Doug led the investigation, looking for clues on north launch, while I headed up the east launch to dust for fingerprints. We both launched, and then switched ridges. Doug toplanded on the east ridge, while I benched up on the north ridge, and then climbed back to join Tim at cloudbase over Puu Piei. It was an incredibly smooth day, with beautiful lighting under the low clouds.

It seemed pretty easterly to me, especially the way it was working at Puu Piei. I was tempted to fly out and ride the cloud bellies downrange in the direction of Pounders. Then I noticed Maui Doug had relaunched, and he was working the front of the ridge like it was blowing more north. And he was getting up out there. I zoomed over to join him, and sure enough, it was coming straight in. I got a boost from some clouds and headed across the bay, making it with plenty of room to spare, for the first time in a while.

As I started to climb up the first ridge above Kaaawa, I heard a distant thunderous rumbling sound, and as the sound subsided, I looked up to see four fighter jets come screaming out from behind the Kualoa ridge, in a tight diamond formation, all of them rotated 90 degrees to the ground. Wow! I was flying with the Blue Angels! Um - get me outta here! Suddenly I was worried that I might have been confused about the TFR zone, and that I might be in restricted airspace above Kaaawa. And as I watched them zoom around Kaneohe Bay in the space of a few short seconds, I started to wonder if their maneuvers might bring them around the corner towards me even if it was outside the TFR. I did my best to hug the ridge, hoping I'd be out of their way if they needed that much room.

They never did come too close, thank goodness. But even from Kaaawa, I got a great view of their practice runs. They zoomed all around Kaneohe Bay, and they kept coming back to the airstrip at the Marine Base, at one point converging there as if they were going to crash together on the ground. I saw a ton of smoke building up, and then all of them suddenly blasted straight up together into the clouds, and then they came careening around the clouds in a huge loop. They were pumping streams of smoke behind them, so their trails were extra long and beautiful. They sped off together, and then they suddenly broke off into four directions, with the smoke showing which way each had gone. It was incredible how fast they could change their headings. And it was very strange to think that I was flying the slowest aircraft in creation while watching them fly some of the fastest ones.

Finally they disappeared and things got quiet, so I made my way over Kaaawa Valley to check out the filming in the back - maybe it was Hawaii Five-0! I saw the pilot episode the other day and it was pretty fun. Grace Park!

The sun was starting to get low, and really putting on a gorgeous light show. I took tons of pictures, and finally headed back to check out the scene at Kahana. Chandler had joined the guys up there, and we all flew around north launch for a while, toplanding and doing touch and goes. Finally we headed to the LZ for some tree soaring before landing just before dark. Chandler did a pretty SAT just before coming in to join us. Thanks to Tim for the Torpedoes. You can come visit us anytime, man.


Anonymous said...

Great Story Alex ! You and our other writers make my day , even if I seem to be taking forever to get to P-2[someday]even without all the pic.s & videos ,its very moving to visualize the moment. Hope to fly over from Whitmore tomrrow,so even if there is no wind you still might see a wing over your house.

MauiDoug said...

Great photos Alex, nice dramatic lighting! Thanks for making your post office run :-)

Thom said...

Alex, this was a wine story for me right before bedtime and I can't thing of a better way to go to sleep knowing that you and the Blue Angels are up there to protect us.

I caught Hawaii 5-0 too. It was very good and glad to see another show might stick here in Hawaii, Grace definitely puts a different edge on the dreams I have been having about my word pronunciation.

We had fun flights at MPU today after the squalls finally disappeared.