Sunday, December 04, 2011

For Evan

With yesterday evening's insane wind debauchery, I expected today to be just as weird. After Maui and Stalker landed at Punalu'u (yesterday), we sat on the beach and witnessed some of the craziest wind we have seen. There were dust devils and cat's paws, about 30mph from the north, then about the same from the east, then it wrapped around and was a little south. It was all over the place! I'm glad everyone landed before that. But I woke up early to see the sunrise and went to w**k and knew I was wrong. Reaper had asked me to give him a wind report so I let him know early that it was looking good - 'better than I expected'.

I begged my buddy to w**k late for me so I could run to Kahana for a nice flight. I really wanted to fly today. Today was the day that Evan Whitlock passed away while speed flying on Kauai last year. This flight was for him.

Upon arrival, I saw Ginny in the parking lot. She informed me that it was good, and said a few people were still up, and some on launch. I ran up the hill as fast as my little legs could, and was anxious to fly. I got to high regular, and found Derek and Johnny Tsunami (skydivers in training). Johnny had his gear laid out and was eager to go. He said he was waiting for Reaper, who had been towing and training at Kualoa. He was arriving soon, and asked if I'd be willing to talk him through his flight.

I checked out conditions and thought about it, discussed it with the guys on the beach and in the air; everyone agreed it was perfect (and I knew Reaper was on the way). Flystrong was showing us how good the conditions were by doing touch-and-gos next to us on launch. With no radio for communication, Tsunami and I exchanged phone numbers, and he had headphones for his phone, and I paired my bluetooth helmet. Derek hiked down to meet Reaper, and to get his gear. One-eye Jim and Sharky were also in the LZ after their flights.

Tsunami kited up his wing and had a perfect launch, I communicated with him when to turn, to use weight shift more than brakes, and how far away to stay from the mountain as he crept his way up the ridge. After he gained some altitude, I sent him to the north ridge. He soared around for quite some time, as he had nice turns back and forth above the ridge. He was cheering the whole time he was in the air. I could hear the smile in his voice as he spoke to me. "This is Awesome!!! You can go anywhere!!!" I smiled back, "You're doin' good, buddy!"

Before I launched, I talked him in to land. I admitted to him that he needed to watch his altitude and be about the height of the trees as he made his approach to land, because I have trouble knowing how high he is from launch. I also told him I have trouble knowing where he is at. I told him when you are past the highway and over the water and boat ramp, to make your "S-turns" to lose altitude there. He communicated with me, "I'm not quite past the highway yet." "Ok, keep going." "I'm over the boat ramp now." "Good, now turn left back into the wind."

He really had a great flight, but I later found out he was flaring too much, and needed to come in with less brake pressure. Other than that - perfect landing on the beach. He said, "Oh my God, that was AWESOME!! Thank you so much, Bonnie!" Good job, Tsunami - go easy on the brakes.

During Tsunami's flight, yet another skydiver-student, Mike Yi arrived on launch. After Tsunami landed, I quickly launched (as I was anticipating my own flight), and I could hear Reaper, Derek, and new student, Lake, hiking up. I kited my wing, turned, and ran off the hill, going straight up and straight to the north ridge and Rhino Horn. I got up and played around with wing-overs and got up again. The only other pilot in the air was Oregon Tim. I watched the students launch and made sure they were doing okay before going over the water for a spiral and landing.

I heard AllanC, Maui Phil, and Maui Tim went downrange. I'm not sure, I think to Punalu'u. Someone else can fill in that part, I was too busy coaching to pay attention. I think I mentioned everyone.

This flight's for you, Evan, and to all of those that knew and loved you -- we miss you buddy! Blue skies!


Alex said...

Thanks for the story, Bonnie! Glad to hear so many people got to fly today. Sounds like both Makapuu and Kahana saw lots of flying action.

Allan posted on the chat box earlier that he made it to BYU - hope he can add a comment here with any interesting details.

Thom said...

Thanks for the Story BonBon,

I am grounded again for awhile after my failed Juice launch. Back is screwed up again, but it will heal. My pride got the worst of it, stupid mistake.

Lesson Learned if wing is not loaded don't run down the hill to try to load it. Too many obstacles.

Thanks to Sandy & John for help getting out and packing glider. Thanks to DNLR Ken for hiking it down.

I am looking forward to these stories now more than usual.

We got one from Jim and now Bonnie. Keep inking.

Gravity said...

Wow I'm impressed that you used your cell phone to communicate. I was mad as hell when I saw Johnny launching and knew he didn't have radio contact with me. Great idea... Have to remember that one in the future.

firedave2 said...

Bonnie, it is great of you to remember Evan. I guess he left you a little of his spirit, fly on.

Waianae Jim said...

Thanks for the story Bonnnie. I made it down to Hauula beach park first followed and was lucky to get a ride back to Kahana by Ka'a'awa Larry who saw me flying over as church was getting out for him and his grandson Jonah. I then picked up Gary, and Sherrie from there too. Portland Tim made it to pounders and Allan C to BYU and they were picked up by Tim's wife Edna. Super fun day, and stoked to have gone down that way - would have been mad at myself if I hadn't done it. Thanks for helping Reaper's students on launch and for keeping Evan's spirit in the air with you.