Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My First Real XC Flight

It was a pretty interesting day today! I arrived at the Makapuu LZ around 9:30 and the wind was pretty light, but by the time Lee, Lars, and a few other Canadians (whose names escape me now) arrived and we got to Cactus, the wind on launch was really strong, probably around 20 mph.

We helped a couple guys off launch, but then Lars got dragged back and whipped through the Kiawe, and dashed against the stones pretty badly. That took the wind out of everyone's sails for a bit. Went down and launched Manics in 13-15 mph wind. Thanks Pete for the assist! Climbed to around 2600 feet over Ironwoods at the corner waiting for someone to lead the way downrange.

After getting the sticks shaken off his wing, Mad Dog jetted up and cajoled Pete to join us on a XC to Kahuku. Pete flew a little way past Ironwoods, and had a "Massive Frontal". I didn’t see it, but it must have been pretty bad because he went back. I was really second guessing my decision to go XC after that, because I didn’t think that kind of thing even phased Pete anymore. Then I figured that Pete must have had other reasons to go back so I flew on.

I learned a lot from that trip: Always (especially on XC) watch either the wind lines or something to be conscious of wind direction at all times. I had a reluctance to leave the ridge to find thermal lift and it got me into trouble a couple times. I flew way too far back inside the bowl and tried pushing out to squeeze around the points and ended up in lee sink and rotor. Once I had a thermal induced massive (50%) collapse, which spun me toward the cliff. I pumped the collapsed side brake a couple times then put both hands up and came out of the spin before I made it much past 180 degrees. Then steered back into the lift. Not fun!!!

I learned about flying on “cloud highways”. That was fun! However, I did get sucked up into some clouds a couple times. I was missing my compass that I got from 5-0. (I broke it already.) But I did have a GPS, so I was able to keep my heading through the clouds. I peaked out at 3,737 feet today, and for most of the trip my legs were shaking because I was pretty cold. And just a bit nervous maybe, but only a tiny bit. I wish that I would have tried harder to follow Mad Dog's path a bit closer. I just had a hard time making myself get out to find thermals. And watching him get lower and lower over the freeway didn’t help either. But he sailed as true as an arrow and didn’t get tossed around at all like I did. I am going to pin that ball compass that Jim gave me onto my harness tomorrow. I was wishing I had it today.

It was so beautiful today from just below the clouds. I could see the whole east side of the island, including Honolulu! I feel so blessed to get to do this!!! Humans have been yearning for centuries to do what we do. We are so fortunate to be alive at this point in history! I flew a total of nearly 18 miles today (as the crow flies). I flew for about 3 hours. I feel great aside from a sun-burned face, and not eating or drinking anything since breakfast. Next time: sun-block, some water, wear more clothes, a ball-compass, stay out of the lee rotor and sink, practice more thermal flying, avoid going inside the clouds, follow the leader!

Thanks so much to Mad Dog for the guidance and to Scrappy for the long ride back to Makapuu. You guys are the best!


Ka'a'awa Larry said...

Pictures! Pictures! Your readers demand photographic evidence of your claims!
Just kidding.
Congratulations to Lake and a big pat on the back to our resident mentor, Mad Dog. I'm jealous but glad for you both.

Lake said...

Sorry guys, this is the best I can do for pictures... This is where I landed by the way: Four-Wheeler trails behind Waikane Valley Rd.

Anonymous said...

Way to stick with the flight yesterday Lake it was a great day for XC. Note about the the ball compass you want to pin on to your harness; If you go into a strong cloud for say more than even a minute you will probably be going up at such a rate that you will not only get disoriented but you will probably be getting rocked around a bit too. My suggestion is getting a compass that you can read(see) first of all, and second one that can spin when you are flying on a steeper angle. And always look at your heading in comparison to your GPS as you fly and notice how the two correspond. I got stuck in a cloud for over five minutes once and GPS not responding rate of lift was large and so maintaining a altititude was not an option, not fun but glad my compass was able to move or spin on axis and I could read it too! Clouds say in Chelan if you get with in 500' of them will kick your butt and send you home with your tail between your legs. Glad you had a nice flight I made it back to class with nine minutes to spare...GAZA

MauiDoug said...

Congrats Lake on your P2 and great XC to celebrate it! As Joey said "now you are hooked for sure!" Thanks again for all your trail and launch maintanance, its very appreciated!
See you in the air soon :-)

Alex said...

Lake, congrats on an amazing achievement this early in your flying career. That flight is farther than most pilots on this island have ever flown. And you did it on a DHV 1-2 wing that was made 13 years ago, following a pilot who had to ask your name over the radio halfway through the flight! There's a lot to learn about flying XC, and Mad Dog is one of the best pilots to learn from - he taught me most of what I know about it. I hope you will learn to exercise great caution flying near clouds, or near the terrain on strong days, or across gaps and valleys where venturis form. Many XC flights that we make here are not about how to stay up, but more about just how to stay safe, without getting sucked into clouds, or blown over the back. The more rare and interesting days are the light ones where we are fighting hard to find thermals and stay up from point to point. I look forward to flying XC with you soon.

Thom said...

Congrats Lake,

I too made an early flying XC from MPU to KNA. That lead me to a very large head, thinking I can do it any time. 3 days later I got sucked over the back by a cloud and was spit out into a tree 60'off the deck.

I was lucky but now I am getting more cautious and checking penetration at all times.

Remember to bring water and some power bars to keep hydrated and not too hungry. Never know how long you will be up. if you get stranded in the woods for awhile water and food will be a comfort.

I like a bigger compass on my flight deck that is legible. GPS sometimes not reliable in clouds.

Good Job. You got to follow one of the craziest, best pilots we got. Mad Dog cudos to you for keeping him under your wing. I guess you got a buddy now that will land on that 4wheel drive road with you.

Don't let anyone dis your wing. guys have been doing that trip with older wings that are not even as close to as good as yours.

The pilot is the key, not the wing. The wing should only give the pilot the knowledge of what it is capable of, the pilot maxes this out.

Great story too, I needed one this morning and looks like I have 3.

Duck said...

Congrats on the excellent flight Lake and thanks for writing it up for those of us who missed out! I agree that we are a privileged few and I am glad you have recognized it this early in your flying career.

Fly Safe!