Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sweat, Blood and Skin

A little over a year ago our friend and former pilot Cliff Chang asked me if I could help the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, and I donated a couple of tandem gift certificates. Don, one of the lucky bidders, has been in touch, but his busy life and weather conditions kept us more "in touch" than "in the air". Finally the stars lined up, and we met at Makapuu.

Some guys were already in the air, including the tandem trio Doug/Jorge/Scrappy. Also in the air were Frank, Nick, Fireman Dave, hangy Leo and visitor CaliRob (I think). Divot Steve had already landed and so had 5-0 Mike, who gave us a ride to check the launches. By radio I was informed that the wind had gone a little more north and Crazy mans was recommended. Manics was super strong and Crazies was feeling all right, but with a somewhat heavy passenger, and a monk seal at the the crowded sunny beach, I opted to hike to Juice. Sweat was shed.

At launch, Scrappy was ready and had a beautiful launch. I asked Tommy RD if he could help me launch. Because of his generosity he did not fly this day. As I was setting up and fluffing the wing, it went to my left, indicating a strong north component. Tommy grabbed the wingtip and helped me pull it back into place. The lines were now clear, and it was our turn to launch. I was waiting for a good cycle, which didn't take very long to arrive, but I wanted to make sure it was strong enough, and I hesitated for a second or two before going for it.

Okay, still blowing straight in: let's go! It took a few more seconds before my passenger started walking forward to inflate the glider, which responded beautifully and came straight above my head. As we made a few steps up the hill and towards the wing, I didn't feel the usual pull. I turned around, did a brake check, yelled "run run run", and we start running down the hill, not getting lifted off, but being pushed to the right. We ran out of runway, tripped, and fell over the sharp lava rocks. Blood and skin were shed.

Are you okay? I asked Don. He replied "I am okay. I think I hit my face. How does it look?" His face was fine, but he had grazed a rock with his sunglass frame and it had a scratch. I took off the harness and got him to sit down, when suddenly he rolled his eyes back and became unresponsive. "Call 911!" I asked RD. It was a very long minute, but before RD finished the call, Don said "I am okay", looking at me. He was back! I believe he went into shock because of adrenaline.

He was feeling dizzy for a bit but was in good spirits. We waited for over an hour before he could regain his energy and consider trying one more time. I called fire/rescue to let them know we were launching there, and to call me back to verify any reports of a "glider on the hill", to avoid any false alarm calls. Fireman Dave, Jorge and Maui Doug hiked up to check on my passenger, and to help us either re-launch or carry gear down. He was up for one more launch, saying "it happens, let's try again", so off we went for a successful launch and enjoyable flight in smooth and now stronger conditions. RD hiked down to make it in time for the 5-0 party. Thank you Tommy, Fireman Dave, Jorge and Maui Doug. I am very glad Don is OK and enjoyed his tandem flight in spite of our initial scare!

I write this to remind our pilots how tricky Tomato Juice can be. With cross cycles from the north we get rotor at launch. The same situation has happened to me more than once, but with less bloody results. Last January, launching tandem with my friend James, we got pushed to the side, and aborted the launch because the wing wasn't fully loaded. Sidehill Thom once had an encounter with the rocks as well (rocks always win in this game), and Maui Doug also had a bit of rotor at launch yesterday. Even though my wing inflation was perfectly straight, and the "turn and burn" technique is usually preferred on tandems, I think I could use a little more work on my tandem kiting skills, and be better prepared to abort a launch if I don't feel the total load on the wing at the Juice launch.

It is hard to judge: was I complacent? Sometimes I take off feeling less than 100% loaded, but with a good inflation, and it usually works. Almost always, anyway. A couple more steps down the hill and we'll be flying, right? But what if we run out of space to run? The lesson here: make that judgment early in the "run-run-run" process, and be ready to abort! What are your thoughts on this issue and launch place? For kiting practice, I am hoping for volunteers to help me with some tandem passenger ground handling time. It is great to spend some time in that position if you ever want to become a tandem pilot!

And finally: I am glad I carry a good first aid kit in my car. Do you?

Brazilian Ray


Tommy RD said...

Hey Ray! Actually I had a good 2 hour flight before hiking up again! I don't mind helping at all. I'm glad Don has a great attitude and still got to fly!! Btw what an awesome party for Mike 5-0 afterward :)

Ready to help my fellow flying monkeys anytime!
Tommy RD

Brazilian Ray said...

Did you know it is btter not to use hydrogen peroxide? Clean, running water and soap is best! Also, keeping your wound moist with Antibiotic cream instead of letting it air out will whelp it heal faster? Info from web md

Brent said...

B Ray...Sorry to hear about your incident. My own story with Juice begins on my first flight at MPU. I hiked Juice with Thom who was not flying on this day because of his own tricky encounter with Juice. We get up to launch and the wind is blowing cross to the hill from the North. Thom has me get on the radio and contact Don who is already in the air. Don says just wait a bit and the wind will switch around. Sure enough within minutes the wind was blowing back up the hill. I pull the wing up and she comes up nice and straight. I turn and then hesitate because I am feeling absolutely no pressure from the wing. I look up and see that the wing is sitting straight over my head. In the next instant the wing frontals and collapses to the ground. I say to Thom " I cant believe that just happened to me." Thom helps me clear my lines and I relaunch and have a wonderful flight.
Juice can be tricky. I have done a lot of kiting in the park and I have never been able to get my wing to fly like that with no pressure from the risers. I have noticed that when other spots around MPU seem to be blowing that Juice will be lighter and more fickle. There also seems to be a house thermal above Juice.
Thanks again to Thom and Jayson for helping me out on my first ever MPU flight.