Monday, December 13, 2010

Spicy Saturday at the Dill

The ridge at Dillingham is often soarable on post-frontal days when the surface flow clocks around from the north. Flying there the day after a storm passes is the classic complement to the pre-frontal flying we look for at Diamond Head. Thanks to Frank, who made the call early enough for us to catch the window of good conditions, we were able to score the second site in our quintessential winter double header on Saturday.

Typically we are looking for a wind direction that is close to due north. When we first got out there, we were disappointed to see that the airfield windsock and sensor were showing a SE flow. Since we'd already made the trip, we decided to wait for a while, but with waning hopes. But it soon clocked around to NE, which is a direction that Harvey showed us last week can be launchable and soarable out there. I launched first, followed by Frank. Bill set up next, as Maui Doug was hiking up. As usual the airflow on that spot wasn't great considering the wind lines and whitecaps on the water. The wind out away from the launch was definitely pretty strong and cross, but I had no trouble punching through and getting around the corner, to soar above the drop zone end of the airfield.

More and more pilots showed up, and by the end of the day we had fifteen pilots out there, with half of them making it up into the air, many for their first time at Scot's climbing wall launch. We saw some very exciting launch action, including Allan's accidental reserve deployment and Scrappy's aborted launch and subsequent roll down the cliff. We also had some exciting landing action: Berndt and visitor Ron ventured a bit too far back down Kaena Point, and weren't able to make it back upwind to the launch trailhead in the strong and cross airflow, so they both landed somewhere in uncharted territory past the end of the road.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is what we learned about the conditions that we'll consider launchable out there. After I had been up for a short time, the sensor showed that the wind had turned more easterly, to 58 degrees. Based on our previous assumptions about what wind angle works at Scot's amazing launch spot, I would have said that we'd be shut down, but to our astonishment, people were still able to launch and get up without any trouble. That direction opens up a lot more flying days for our unassuming little grassy knoll. We still don't really know how light the conditions can be for us to get up from there, since the spot is situated a bit low to hook into much thermal action, but I look forward to doing some thermal research out there on lighter days.

I ended up landing earlier than I would have liked, because I was uncomfortable with how my brake pulley was starting to detach on one side. But I'd already enjoyed my fill of that strong and spicy soaring, and was looking forward to some refreshments. I hung out for a long session of post-flying relaxation at the beach, and it was great to see so many of my buddies enjoying a rare day at this special site. Let's be sure and get some more of that crispy pickle action this winter!

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