Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yuichi's Last Day

Over the past few weeks, many of us have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Yuichi, a super nice young man from Japan who was determined to become our newest pilot. We've watched him overcome numerous obstacles to achieve his goal. Despite several unbroken weeks of terrible weather, and Pete's typically unpredictable schedule, Yuichi was undaunted, and he came out to join us and pursue his training at every opportunity. We saw him take several flights as a tandem passenger; we helped him learn to ground handle at beaches and parks; and we cheered him on as he crammed in a bunch of training flights on a few rare light wind days. And then yesterday, on his very last day here, some pilots actually had the privilege of soaring with him at Kahana.

Yuichi came to Oahu specifically to learn to fly, during his last few remaining weeks before starting a job in Japan as a construction engineer. I remember meeting him the first time when Louise brought him out for a tandem. I thought he was a friend of hers from BC, but he was actually just staying at the same B&B with her, in Hawaii Kai. Later, I saw Yuichi learning to ground handle at the LZ, under the tutelage of Pete and others. Maui Doug, our newest apprentice instructor, gave him a tandem flight and worked on ground handling with him as well.

Then I heard that Pete gave him 19 tows in a single day at Sandys. Louise had to return to Canada, but she was replaced at the B&B by another visiting pilot from BC, Kevin, who also befriended Yuichi. After that, the raging winds of island springtime settled in for a long spell of kitesurfing conditions, and it looked like Yuichi was going to be out of luck to finish his training.

But instead, he cleverly jetted off to Maui for the weekend, and scored seven more training flights under Dexter's supervision on Maui's world class training hill at Polipoli, protected almost entirely from the tradewinds by the massive bulk of Haleakala. (I hear all the best Oahu pilots started out on Maui's training hill...well, okay, maybe we're not the best, or even the handsomest, or the hardest drinking, but I'm sure there must be some distinction we can claim! Longest-winded?)

Anyway, Yuichi returned to Oahu Sunday night, needing just one more flight for his signoff, and he only had a day to make it happen, since he was scheduled to depart for home on Monday night. By some miraculous coincidence, the howling winds momentarily relented on Monday, opening a brief window of flyable conditions, a window that was predicted to come slamming right back down that evening as the winds resumed their gale force fury.

But although the weather was magically cooperating, suddenly Pete was having major car trouble, and wasn't going to be able to come out to supervise the last day's flight. That might have been a problem for another student, but resourceful Yuichi conscripted his new pal Kevin to replace Pete for the day. Kevin is not just a visiting pilot, but he also happens to be an advanced instructor in Canada! So they headed out to Kahana early, and scrambled up the hill to prepare for launch. I followed soon afterward to set up camp on the beach with Amelia.

Oregon Jeff hiked up to help, and Gary and Maui Abhay were up there as well. Yuichi executed a great launch in brisk winds at upper launch, and climbed out to get established in a standard soaring pattern, as Kevin launched to join him in the air. Yuichi drank in the view up there for an hour or more before we decided to bring him in ahead of a line of possible squalls. He made a sweet landing under my ponderous radio supervision.

After the squalls passed, Yuichi hiked up for one more flight. The wind had grown a bit stronger, so this time he launched from low launch, with the assistance of Arizona Chandler, yet another visiting instructor -- the fifth official instructor to work with Yuichi since he started this action packed adventure. The flight was shorter the second time, because another line of squalls was approaching, and this time I instructed him set up his landing approach without any input from me over the radio. Another nice landing!

Many desperate visiting pilots as well as a few locals appeared out of the woodwork to join us during the course of the day. Many flights were flown, punctuated by numerous passing squalls, and a few hikes were sadly but quickly retraced back down the hill.

The roll call for the day grew to include a dozen pilots, including Yuichi, Kevin, Oregon Jeff, Maui Abhay, Kamloops Pavol, Arizona Chandler, Crazy Water Mat from Seattle, Larry W, Gary, Duck, Harvey, and me. Congratulations to Yuichi for completing his training! Best of luck in new your new job, and I hope you are able to take some time off soon for paragliding. Come back and visit us anytime.

Thanks to Seattle Mat for the two cases of crazy water, which I'll bring out to our next gathering, and to Kevin and Yuichi for the bountiful supply of cold refreshments with which we slaked our thirst on this special day.

After I first posted this story, Pete sent me his story of the full lesson plan, which I am including here:
Reading Alex's story I felt it was necessary to enlighten the club with Yuichi's real story of his paraglider training in Hawaii.

In December 2010, Yuichi contacted me via email with the idea of a Japanese student coming here to learn to fly in Hawaii. I knew that winter weather is fickle at least. Also, I was concerned about the language issue.

Louise found Yuichi a great place to stay at a Japanese / English B&B in Hawaii Kai for cheap and then joined Yuichi.

Training Day 1: Yuichi came to my house on the 1st day to start ground school. We watched videos, talked, and went over all the aspects of ground training. Windy day.

Day 2: Yuichi and I met at Makapuu and did a tandem for his 1st flight. We then spent several hours kiting at the LZ until he snagged the glider on the guard rail and tore a 2' hole in it.

Day 3: Yuichi and I met at Kahana we kited for hours on the beach with Bonnie's XXS small wing. Winds were strong but he handled the wing pretty good, with the exception of getting sucked into the venturi.

Day 4: Yuichi and Louise went to Kualoa Park and kited for some time before we met up at Kahana later with the New Ozone Buzz Z3 that Chris Langan sent over for demo.

Day 5: Yuichi met with Maui Doug over at Kualoa and had training with Doug learning A & C's.

Day 6: Yuichi went to Sandy beach and kited and in the strongest East winds I think I've ever seen a student kite in.

Day 7: Yuichi and I met at Sandy beach (while all of you were bombing out at Makapuu) and with scooter tow we managed to get in 19 tows, some of which were to over 400' agl. We were there until 7pm. He even ran the line back all day.

Day 8: It was decided that we fly the east bowl at Lanikai with a big gang of pilots. We soared for over an hour. Landing on the beach LZ in crowded conditions and a perfect spot landing really opened up Yuichi's eyes. I then did water training at Lanikai beach with Yuichi in my passenger harness.

Monday thru Thursday: it was the strongest wind I have ever seen and all week I was getting my butt kicked on a roof. Yuichi was calling and asking where we fly.

On Thursday I called Dexter at Proflyght in Maui and made arrangements for Yuichi to do some training. After checking the weather and info with Dexter we decided that the only flying would be there on Maui or the Big Island. Maui was the choice.

Yuichi flew to Maui the next morning, spent several days training with Woody and Dexter and achieved 7 more flights for a grand total of 28 flights.

Monday (last day before leaving for Japan): Yuichi met up with BC Kevin (a 21 year pilot and instructor from Vancouver) that is staying at his house too. They arrived at my house in the am to a tow truck, 2 mechanics, a roofing contractor buddy and all of us trying to figure out what killed my new truck and what to do with it. I suggested that Kevin is more than qualified to 'huck' Yuichi from low launch at Kahana, and that I will try to join them later.

Kevin, Alex, Chandler, and the rest of the gang saw to it that Yuichi not only 'huck' but too sky out and fly for 1 1/2 hours on his 1st flight at Kahana. Then they hucked him again for his 30th flight in one month on island.

After I think more frosty refreshments than Yuichi has ever bought or drank Kevin brought him over and we started his USHPA P-2 test. Unfortunately Kevin had to leave for the airport that night and Yuichi still had hours of test taking in English. At approx. 9:30 pm Yuichi passed his P-2 exam, and we loaded the Hummer for the trip to Hawaii Kai. The Hummer was dead. Yuichi's flight was early the next morning and he had to go. I called him a taxi, and gave the driver the $70 to get him home with his big new P-2 grin.

The only reason Yuichi was able to finish his P-2 was determination and the help of all the pilots that made it happen.

This was the biggest group effort I have ever seen in my 23 years of paragliding of making sure he accomplished his dream of becoming a pilot.

Yuichi and I thank you all.

P.S. He'll be back...


Duck said...

Whoo Hoo!! CONGRATS Yuichi! I look forward to flying with you!

Yuichi said...

I am so glad that everyone congratulates me so much. And thank Alex to write this great article. I am very happy to have such super nice friends in Oahu.
Thank everyone for giving me unforgettable memories and experience in my spring days.
My paragliding life is just started now. It is my great pleasure if I can fly with all of you together again!!! Yeah, I’ll be back soon, of course!

Thom said...

What a trip! This is a story for the record books.

Congrats Yuichi, I hope your homeland Japan gets better soon.

Look forward to flying with you here and maybe even in front of Mt. Fuji some day.

Louise said...

I'm really happy that I was able to be a part of this. Yuichi is a great person, and with that enthusiasm and drive, well on his way to being a great pilot.
I always tell people that the Hawaii crew is the best flying community I know. They always make you feel welcome, they're full of encouragement and they love to fly and spend time together. Maybe it's something in the water, maybe it's something in the air, but what ever it is, you can be assured that the spirit of Aloha is alive and well. This is just another great example of that. Without the support and camaraderie of this group, I don't think this would have been possible. Pat yourselves on the back, I think you've just created another flying monkey for whom Hawaii will always have a spot their heart.

'Till next time,