Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trouble at Tantalus

After at least a decade of tolerance and benign neglect, our pilots were threatened with enforcement action at Tantalus today. A DLNR police officer showed up at Tantalus today and warned pilots that launching or landing there without a permit was a criminal offense. He spoke with Gary, who immediately spread the word, and has now relayed this to me.

Apparently that didn't stop some of the guys from launching after the officer left. I'm not sure if that was the best course of action to smooth things out, unless they just decided it didn't matter because this was really going to be their last chance to ever fly there. Anyway, thanks to Mad Dog, Thom, Berndt, Scrappy and Gary for the calls today alerting me to the situation.

I don't think anyone did anything unusual today to warrant the attention - the guy said he came because he'd received complaints from workers. We're not sure, but perhaps he meant DLNR workers. He also said he knows we've been flying there a lot lately. Gary said he seemed like a nice guy, who really didn't want to be there on a Sunday, but was forced by the complaints to deal with us. Gary said that later on, the same guy found Gavin in the valley, as he was walking down the street after landing at Manoa Park, and he gave him the same warning. Not sure if he went looking for Gavin or if it was a chance encounter.

Tantalus has always been a site that we fly without an official permit, like most of our sites, thanks to the gracious tolerance and benign neglect of the authorities and surrounding community. In the very old days, when I started flying, there were stories of guys getting chased down and issued tickets by irate DLNR officers. To me, that sounded like a pretty unpleasant way to get a flight. But in later years I heard about people flying there without attracting any negative response. Generally it would just be two or three guys flying, and they wouldn't put out the call to anyone else, just issue a flight report after the fact. It might have been out of selfishness, but I think it was more likely just a good instinct about site preservation for a sensitive spot.

In more recent years, we've begun to take that tolerance from the authorities for granted, and we've been flying out there a lot more often, and sounding the call for everyone to come out and fly there each time. It sure was fun but I don't think it helped us prolong our access to the site. At this point I don't think it's anyone's fault in particular, but the overall effect has been to increase our presence at the site way beyond what it used to be, both in pilot numbers and frequency.

It's very likely we are at the same point we were with Kahana all those years ago, when after many years of flying there without a permit, but also without undue scrutiny, our increased numbers and frequency of flying finally made us impossible to ignore, and they forced us to try and arrange a permit. It's possible we could try to secure a similar permit at Tantalus, but I'm not sure what kind of effort that would take, or if it would be worth the effort considering the number of days the weather is good there. And we'd need to work for two separate permits, one from the state for the launch, and one from the city for the park below.

Generally a project like that requires one primary individual who is seriously committed to making it happen, someone who is willing to be the champion of the cause, to draft proposals, speak at community meetings, and generally keep the ball rolling. And it could take years. Of course, others would help out, but you need one person to be in charge. I'm not that person - you all know I'd lay down in front of soldiers and tanks to keep Kahana open and permitted, but I'm afraid I don't feel the same strong urge about Tantalus. Perhaps some of you do. Anything's possible if you want it bad enough.

The tricky part is that Tantalus is a State Park, just like Kahana, so it's run by the same department. Any headaches we cause them at Tantalus could negatively impact our 10 year old permit at Kahana. That permit is up for renewal this month. I am planning to call the director about it tomorrow. The subject of Tantalus will surely come up in our conversation, as it has a few times in the past.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Please remember that our articles on this site, as well as all our comments posted to the articles, are visible to the public, permanently, and indexed by search engines, so let's keep the comments constructive and polite. Thanks.

Allan C's first Tantalus flight and landing from Berndt Nording on Vimeo.


Thom said...

I have never flown this site but have been there to witness it as a pilot and long before.

I think it is a great site and with the new gliders and sufficient site orientation can be a safe, enjoyable addition to our permitted launches with a reachable park LZ.

Due to the frequency recently in the amount of flights and number of pilots it would be prudent to look into a permit as long as it does not affect our established permits.

Even though Alex may not spear head this effort, I am sure he would want to be part of this process as a guide and wealth of information through this drawn out process.

But in the mean time, it appears we have had our warning and we all should take notice when flying from this site, as well as all other sites for that matter.

Thanks again Gary for your quick intel to Alex.

To the pilots that scored this flight, Congrats. By the look of the Allan C video landing it looks like it was just the right day.

Doug said...

2 cents.

On the down side:

There is no bomb out, nothing like landing on the road to improve your skills

There are no landing zones except the park, launch and some persnickity schools

The park if often full of kids, games, fences, backstops, etc and isn't really that great a place to land

You fly over a "populated area" in violation of the ultralight exemption, so it may be hard to ensure as a USHPA site

XC potential is limited due to the lack of landing zones, good landing zones anyway

On the up side

No hiking, it is a drive up site

Killer photo opportunities and pimping the tourists


Did I already say its a drive up?

Alex said...

Doug, thanks for the pessimistic 2 cents. I know you love to fan the flames of these kind of discussions. But for my part, most of my Tantalus flights haven't involved flying over the populated areas, but rather just working thermals over the ridge and doing a valley tour. Not a problem for FAR 103. I know that may not be the norm for everyone these days, but it would have to be if we were to seek the permit. Also, lately we're finding that the park is not hard to reach if you're not getting up, as long as you are smart and work your way back towards it right away. I've also never found the park a hard place to land, no matter which field I aim for. True about how it's sometimes crowded with ball players - we'd definitely have to address that.

Not that I'm considering spearheading this. I'm happy to help in any way I can if anyone else is motivated though. Still waiting for our site champion to come forward...doesn't sound like Doug will be that guy. Although he was one of the primary guys to make the Kahana permit happen way back when - what a great project that was. :-)

Alex said...

Just deleted a goofy anonymous comment. Please limit your responses to constructive ones and sign your name.

I'm still hoping for constructive comments. It would be nice to hear from any of the guys who fly Tantalus the most. Dave, Jorge, Scot, Frank, Scrappy...? Or even pilots who have never flown there.

Does the lack of comments mean everyone but me and Thom thinks it's a lost cause? It's okay if you do, I'm just trying to get a sense of what people think. If you don't feel like posting you could always give me a call.

Thom said...

Not a lost cause but the fliers of this site, names mentioned above,are mostly the ones that have flown over the populated areas and some have had small XC's to land in places of consequence. So far we have never had a problem with flying here or DH but we are increasing in numbers and TAN flights have been increasing.

Doug may have a point that it may be difficult to get the permit but may be worth a try as long as it does not affect the already permitted sites. I have not flown this one for the lack of LZ and have watched many wild top lands. Especially when it is "Tubular".

Doug said...

Not fanning the flames.

Lighting a fire perhaps.

If you don't honestly evaluate both sides every thing seems like a good idea.

Truthfully the place always scared me.

For the record. I looked at google maps and you could sneak in the west side of the park without flying over to many houses. I'll withdraw my point about flying over a populated area...its not any worse than Lanakai and the landing zone is less than a mile away.

High visibility, can you imagine the media circus when some one has the first twisted ankle, knee, toe with all TV stations within a 5 minute drive of the site?

Perhaps it could be a P-4 site with a local endorsement and landings in the park after receiving permission from the parks people prior to flying.

Alex said...

Thanks for the comment, Doug. What you suggest is exactly what I was thinking we would have to aim for. Still might be pie in the sky but it seems worth imagining.

Nick Johnson said...

P-4! Now I finally have a reason to pursue a P-4. It's definitely a P-4 site without the park as a landing option. The permit would be challenging, but not asking is a guaranteed "NO". Asking also has it's drawbacks. Something to discuss at our next quarterly meeting.