Saturday, April 30, 2011

East + Unstable + MPU = Alternate XC Routes Out Front

During my short flying career I have found that typically we do not like to go downrange at Makapuu on days that are East, at least not when using ridge lift as our primary source of lift. However, today seemed like it was worth the try since the sea breeze seemed to be dominating at times, the instability in the atmosphere was projected to be quite strong, and there was an exceptionally high cloud base over the Koolaus. Long story short, I will detail my flight from Makapuu to Temple Valley if anyone is interested.

Launched out of Juice in sea breeze conditions and easily climbed to 3000-ft over the hang launch. Got the combination of a great thermal and cloud suck finding myself at 3600-ft, it was time to go on glide. Arrived at Pu'u O Kona with 1700-ft taking the flat land route. Once there a lack of usable ridge lift at the East facing ridge forced me to search out the occasional strong thermal which turned out to be a much better method for getting high. Waited until I hooked one back up to 3700-ft in a big blue hole in the clouds and left on glide for Olomana since Green Walls was surely in major rotor from the East wind.

On my way to Olomana two hang gliders buzzed past me waving which made me feel much better since I had not seen another pilot in the sky since launching. Just about half way to Olomana there was still some decent lift under the clouds so I used the clouds to guide my route to arrive as high as possible. This was important never having made this route before. Hit some boomer thermas as I approached the first peak and was right back up above cloud base in a cloud free zone waiting for others to join me. Hung out for half an hour but when I got an opportunity to catch a thermal in a blue patch of sky to 3800-ft I was over the back on glide towards the Pali. Remember that I have not flown above the Pali either so I was very focused on making smart and safe decisions.

Before arriving at the Pali I determined which area of the ridge was facing East and had to pull in quiet tight to work the ridge lift while waiting for a thermal to bake off in the valley below. All along the way I was constantly checked my penetration as it was a little stronger than I would have wished for my very first solo adventure past the Pali. I typically was maintaining 8-10-mph facing directly East even up high. There were a few gust fronts preceding clouds where I would slow down for a few seconds however these did not seem to last. Having daydreamed many many times about being high over the peaks of the Pali Highway I really took in the sites but remembered the focus required to keep myself safe and from getting into a dangerous situation. Took a cloud street to the H3, had to pull big ears to ensure that I would not get into the clouds on my glide across the gap, and again took the route well out front of the ridge.

Arriving at the ridge just before crossing the H3 I again determined where the ridge was facing east and searched for lift there, but by this time the wind at least locally seemed to have turned more North. Found the best lift on the ridge facing North here. There was more than enough lift and I was focused on staying out of the clouds and over the flats for my next glide. Just before going on glide Jorge caught up to me. He was much higher playing up in and above the clouds, it looked like he must have had close to 1000-ft on me and I was well over 3k at this point. I saw him disappear into some rater intimidating looking clouds as he crossed the H3 valley. I choose to push out front and get on speed bar with big ears to burn off some altitude to make sure I would be below the clouds forming over the flats that were making their way towards the ridge.

This choice was what eventually caused me to land, and in retrospect was probably the correct one. I crossed the H3 way over the flat lands near Temple Valley and well under a rather intimidating looking dark cloud. When Jorge got on the radio and said that we should get out front over the coast to see what this cloud would do I knew my choice to fly well below and towards the coast was what I needed to do. While on glide I lost altitude with big ears and speed bar while Jorge stayed 1000-ft right above my head. When we finally reached the scary cloud I was too low to take advantage of any lift it had to offer. Jorge flew right into the back of it and was able to get back up and to the ridge fronting the Hygenics Store.

After the system passed conditions went back to looking inviting on the main range. Made an attempt to fly back to the ridge in front of Temple Valley but had burned off too much altitude trying to escape the black cloud. Told Jorge I was landing and choose a baseball field across from the Movie Theatre in Temple Valley as I did not want to land in the Cemetery itself. Had a rather smooth landing and soon heard that Jorge had landed at Hygenics. Folded up the glider and talked story with some families that were hanging out in the park before walking over and getting some Subway for the ride home.

Jorge's wife picked both of us up and we made the drive back to Makapuu, thank you so much for that.

In summary, all of those days at Nanakuli really helped me to feel confident to take advantage of strong lift all the way to cloud base when I could find it and leave sink as soon as I found it. Sorting out all of the varying weather conditions and determining when to be patient and when to go for a crossing is my favorite part of this type of flying. Maybe one day we will have a gaggle up there and can really work together to find the best route to Kahana and beyond. I am looking forward to a day with lighter winds at altitude to make a push even further. I must have learned something, I was up there for at least 3.5-hrs.


DaveZ said...


Terrific article, I really enjoyed it.

Brazilian Ray said...

yes, Little F, I am sure you learned something! hahaha, just kidding! what a great flight!!! Almost 4 grand over hang launch, WOW!!!!! congratulations!!
I like the fact you are pushing your limits but always thinking of flying safely, keep up the good job and writing your stories so we all can learn something ;)


Brazilian Ray

allanc said...

Three days till I leave for SIV. Got to get in all the training I can and make sure I am at the top of my skills over the lake.

Thom said...

Thanks AllanC,

I had a coffee read again. You did all the right moves. Don't ever question your judgement after landing out safely.

Keep checking that penetration and your thermal abilities are already amazing.

One of these days I might be able to keep up with you, but don't hang and wait on these days, just go, but safely.

Good luck on the SIV and keep up the good flights and stories.

MauiDoug said...

Great flight AllanLF! Way to go! Landing in the cemetery doesn't sound good to me either! Have a safe SIV trip!

Sharky said...

Awesome article LF! I learned just by reading about your decision making process along the way.

Gonna have to suck it up, and do my thermal homework when the opportunity presents itself. Seems like your Nanakuli adventures paid off with some very valuable skills.

I'm hoping to do an SIV in August w BradG..I know Joey was interested. Any other monkeys interested in going??

Thanks for sharing your story and your thoughts regarding your flight!


JK said...

Good flight, Allan. Excellent airmanship. And thanks for the insight on your flight.

Bill said...

Where's the pic's brah???

You know I'm a shutterbug!

No pic -- no proof!!!!! All fluff!