Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Chicken Little

I knew the forecast said high pressure was going to crank up the trades for the foreseeable future. That could be anywhere from a week to a month, so I was determined to get one last day of flying in. I sounded the alarm on the chatterbox: the sky is falling! It's the last day before Armageddon! Everybody needs to quit work and take to the skies! But only Harvey and Flash heeded my call. We met at the Kahana LZ around noon and we all hiked up together. I had cross country flying on my mind, and I was excited about the super high cloudbase that magically appeared as we were hiking up.

I launched first. The wind felt like a sea breeze, very light and thermic. But I couldn't get above the rhino horn no matter what I tried. Those wily thermals just kept slipping away. I saw Harvey launch and go straight to the beach. Noooo! The sensor said 6 mph, and it wasn't lying. Man, was it light. After 30 minutes of scratching, I top landed next to Flash just to take a break.

Then we saw some nice chewy texture on the water in front of a big squall line. Flash took the texture as his cue and launched, climbing up easily. I followed. In light of the impending rain, I advised him to top land, bottom land, or run. He bottom landed. I top landed, and bundled up my gear to hide in the bushes. That turned out be a Big Mistake. The squall line poured buckets on me and my gear.

After it finally stopped, I laid out my gear on launch again. Cloudbase was now super low, but at this point I would be happy just to sled down to the postage stamp of an LZ. As I was arranging my gear, my helmet started to roll down the hill, and I dove after it down the wet muddy slope, almost pitching off the cliff below upper launch before I finally snagged it.

Then the wind proceeded to blow every which way for an hour: onshore, offshore, uphill, and downhill. Finally it straightened out, just in time for another squall line to form right in front of the bay. Oh. My. God. I bundled up my gear again, and stuffed it back into the bushes. There was more rain, though maybe not quite as much as before.

Then it was back out with the gear. But now the wind was mad. It blew really, really hard. There were whitecaps everywhere. The sensor was stuck at 18 for several readings. Eighteen!! I was cold and wet and muddy, and hungry. It was almost dinnertime and I'd been here since before lunchtime! JK and Laura were at the LZ, but JK was too smart to hike up and join me. They were just hanging out to keep tabs on me. Thanks, guys!

Finally the wind calmed down a bit and the sensor confirmed it was only 12 or 13. I launched, and benched up in some really strange easterly air. And cloudbase was high again. I flew with several Iwa birds before they glode off into the distance. My plan was just to fly for awhile to dry off my stuff. But no way was I going to land at the LZ when it was this east. I got to around 1,500 feet over the Rhino Horn before blazing for Punaluu. JK and Laura followed.

At the Punaluu ridge, it was working, after a fashion, but it was practically blowing me offshore. It was about as easterly as it could be without being totally rotored out. I got to 1,500 again and headed for the Hauula ridge past Sacred Falls.

That ridge gave me nothing but sink in the easterly flow. So I headed out over the flats towards my house, and I actually got some nice thermic lift in the strong laminar flow, just slowly cranking my way up a bit higher, bucking and pitching.

Finally I turned and burned, making a line for Hauula Beach Park, as JK and Laura pulled in there below me. JK reported a super east wind direction, straight down the shoreline, and pretty brisk too. I made my way down carefully, and managed to pull into the park without getting worked too badly. Whew! I was glad to be down safe.

So I guess I showed those forecasters who's boss. Yeah, right. Remind me never to top land in front of a squall line. The correct answer is: bottom land! Every time! Fold up and hike again if it's perfect later. Which isn't too likely anyway.

Thanks to Harvey and Flash for the flying company, and to JK and Laura for the retrieve and the beverages. See you all in a few weeks after the wind calms back down!


Ka'a'awa Larry said...

Alex.............."Glode"????? Remind me not to play scrabble with you.

Alex said...

Wow, Larry! I buried that one in there, and I sure didn't expect to be called on it this soon, if ever. The thing is, I just don't like to say glided. It sounds stupid. So I borrowed from ride/rode. Glode sounds better, you have to admit. Not because it's a homonym for "glowed" but mainly just because it rolls off the tongue a mite easier.

Puka Wai said...

Hmmm, flying in any kind of weather, scratching in bug farts, hanging out in the rain, creative verb conjugation... My guess is that someone is eyeing a spot on the 2013 X-Alps team

Thom said...

Alex in the X-Alps??? Not sure they have a 'Sprint' division. Kidding.

First thanks for the coffee read. It looks like Mad Dog will be the only Monkey flying for awhile......on normal wings that is. We hope to get some Annecy stories.

I hate to be the Sargent at Arms here but there is a lesson to be learned here.

Alex mentioned how the weather changed during the time he was on launch. Take heed we are in a weird weather pattern and it can happen at any second. (Weird weather pattern or not)

If the weather does not look promising with forecasts and your analysis of the visible horizon, Don't Fly! Launch is not the best place to fold up but you can get it done, hike DOWN and re-fold later.

I am not dissing Alex on his decision. He has over 11 years flying and only he has a billion flights at KNA. Because of this often times, actually all the time, he makes it look easy and fun. I am talking to all the rest of us novice to new guys, that watch him make it look easy.

Just cause Alex can do it doesn't mean you should. Some of our injuries of late have been from bad decisions.

Even when you don't get injured but at the end of the flight one of your statements is "I got lucky on that one." Don't forget about your bag of is not an endless supply. Figure out what you did and listen to other pilots' views of your flight.

It would have saved me an embarrassing, costly Pounders Splash had I shut up and listened the day before after getting my feet wet at Lanikai.

Once your a P-2 you are the pilot in charge, but there is no shame in getting information from other pilots. Listen sort it out make good decisions.

Sorry about the Soap Boxing, but as one of the worst offenders of my own words and I know all will be reading this.

This is the time to get your gear out. Pick the seeds off your harnesses, oil your pulleys, have your reserves re-packed etc.

Donna just walked in and viewed my rant and wanted to add. "Or you could be tiling the bathroom". OUCH !!

When, oh When will it ever be.....

Time to Fly, Dust off your Gear and Go!!??????