Friday, February 25, 2011

Flying "The Crater"

Haleakala is a sensitive site - PLEASE fly with a local (Maui) pilot for many reasons - thanks!

Haleakala Crater is not a crater. The mountain has eroded to look like a crater, so we call it "The Crater". The summit is just over 10,000 feet -- we launch close to that and fly to the beach.

Conditions needed are: winds light enough at the summit to launch, and light enough and in the right direction to glide to the beach (don't count on getting any lift), and light enough at the beach to land safely.

Summer Crater flights are rare as the wind is usually too high.

There are north and south facing launches. Every flight for me except today's has been from the south launch. Even if winds are light, launch can have strong thermal cycles. Very experienced pilots are routinely drug through sharp lava with lines and wings and skin shredding.

Launching south means you need to get high enough to cross the ridge to make it to Kihei. The official LZ is the big grassy area of Kam III park. A couple of weeks ago, I crossed low due to SW wind/sink, and landed south of Polo Beach in Wailea. Here is a link to a Leonardo flight (not mine) from the south side to Wailea Beach. Also, clouds may come in before you cross the ridge.

Today I launched from the north, because I had not done it yet. South launch was better since thermals were coming up. We had to wait for the south side thermals to die before a small puff of wind came up from the north. So, super good light wind/high altitude launch skills are needed on the north, OR, switchy high/thermal wind launch skills are needed on the south. Both have razor sharp lava to snag your wing and lines. Oahu pilots have no shortage of high wind snaggy launch skills.

It's best to launch early. Mornings are almost always clear, and clouds almost always develop by 10 am or earlier.

Today, the clouds came fast, but low enough to fly over, and there were holes to fly through. Can you see two paragliders over the clouds? The blue one is Phil, and I'm the tiny wing on the upper left.

If there are clouds (which is almost always), you need a big compass and a GPS, and you need to know how to use them in the white room. Flying in clouds is bad, landing in a tree is bad, landing in a lava field with no cell reception and a super long hike is bad, crashing into the mountain or another PG in the cloud is VERY bad. Winds also pick up both on launch and at the beach, which is another reason to get off sooner rather than later.

Today 13 pilots launched and 11 made it to the beach. Both the Kam III LZ and the bar at 5 Palms were crowded with very happy pilots.

Crater 2 Da Beach by Maui Maniacs from AirWaterEarth on Vimeo.

Just received my new Niviuk Artic 2 ....Love it! I Want to say thanks to people behind all the technology that give us ability to fly.
February 18 2011 was a nice day to experience almost 10'000 ft decsent from Haleakala Crater to Kihei. Flight that most of local pilots get to experience a hand full of times every year and visiting pilots a hand full of times in their life : ) Keep it FUN.


Anonymous said...

Nice story & pic.s ,hope to fly in the 'house of the sun' soon.

MauiMark said...

weather links

current wind (seems less reliable from NE)

cloud forecast

Wind model forecast

Thom said...

Thanks for the info Mark. This flight is definitely on my gotta do list. Hopefully everyone got the picture of the not so easy launch and the chance of a visit to the white room. Keep us posted on times that predictions look promising, I am in.

Unknown said...

Mark, Thanks for the posting, great views of an island that i love. Having been in them on occasion, are you alert to the tourist 'chopers that also visit the white room? Gotta fly with you guys sometime soon. Bob

MauiMark said...

helicopters are supposed to stay above 10,000ft. this has not been an issue. We are alert and notice when they are lower. Despite out best efforts we don't usually get higher than 10k. What is spooky is the fact that you can have a dozen pilots launch together and as soon as you leave the ridge you can see any one else until you get to the LZ. As hard as I look I can't see other PGs. An airplane or helicopter would have no chance to see us. We are so very small compared to the great big sky.

Alex said...

Guys, I'm asking you to please sign your names to your comments, and keep the discussion civil and constructive. I just had to delete two comments that weren't signed. I'd rather not require that everyone use their official google account to verify their identity. I think that will only discourage people from participating. Thanks for your understanding.

MauiMark said...

Great crater flights yesterday and again today. Yesterday was south launch. I got a really nice thermal of some goats on top of a Puu on the ridge.

Today was north launch wind was straight up and soarable when we got there then when too east before anyone could launch. Had an 8mph tail wind entire flight. At beach wind changed to 7mph on shore perfect gentle touch down. Despite the photos above and the clouds in the air today we all stay clear of clouds. There were helicopters, they stayed above us and clear of clouds. Lots of safe uneventful flying on Maui!