Thursday, January 31, 2013

Luck and Choices

How lucky we are, to be able to choose which site on this little island we feel like flying on a given day. Most of the time, the weather dictates the best or safest choice pretty clearly, but occasionally we are perplexed by a plethora of possibilities. Today it looked like all four corners of the island would be working. A few of us chose to explore the northwest corner, which would be my choice pretty much any day I think it might be working. Six pilots hiked up there today, and five managed to launch for some sweet flights. That place is a crap shoot on most days, but today our luck was good, and we were rewarded for our choice.

The airflow was light and slightly east of north. Kealia seemed like the best call for launching, despite the fact that we know that spot is the worst launch on the island. I love flying Kaena Point more than anyone, but I sure hope we can find a better hike up launch than Kealia. There's little to no airflow to help inflate a wing, and there are only two steps back to the cliff's edge and a thousand foot drop.

This morning, Brian had launched Kealia for an extended sledder in his mini wing, and he called me to say it looked promising for full size wings. Woody and I dragged Allegra up there around noon, in hopes that the conditions would be suitable for a newer pilot, but they were difficult for all of us. Woody and I finally got airborne, and we were stoked to soar pretty far in both directions, all the way out to the point, and then back as far as the drop zone the other way, for a twelve mile loop. The low cloud base and thick volcanic fog kept us from going any farther.

Near the end of our flights, we saw Dop and Derek launch their hybrid mini/speed wings, and we watched them carve their way down to the bomb out LZ near the airfield. After a couple of hours in the air, Woody and I wound up our flights with a landing on the beach near Camp Erdman, where there is some nice grass to set down a wing. Thanks to Woody's wife Nancy for picking us up!

Meanwhile, poor Allegra packed up and hiked down. One thing you can say about her: she is a serious hiker. And another thing: she is a good sport. At the end of the day she thanked us for including her in the adventure. It was our pleasure. I just hope next time we can hike up to an easier launch!

Just as we were landing, Brian showed up to hike back up for another try, and this time he scored a sweet soaring session in his mini wing, complete with a couple of top landings at the Kealia launch. You gotta give someone credit for hiking up to the worst launch on the island twice in one day, but top landing there is a sign of true insanity. Earlier in the day, I had flown over the best launch on the island a few miles down the ridge, and I was too chicken to try top landing there. Next time I hope to be more like Brian!

Kaena is such a fun place to mix it up with all the other aircraft pursuing or supporting our common interest: recreational airtime. We flew with sailplanes, tow planes, jump planes, skydivers, and speed flyers. We also saw lots of whales breaching out there. We met some nice hikers on the trail. And we met a nice couple on the beach who studied with Fly Above All in Santa Barbara years ago, and they said they are hoping to get back into it sometime soon.

Last week, I glibly and optimistically predicted that this frontal passage would give us a chance to fly at Nanakuli, Diamond Head and Dillingham. I hate to say I told you so, but … well, I told you so. Or maybe it was all just a question of luck and choices. Today didn't offer the typical light north postfrontal flow I pine for at Dillingham, but we got the next best thing, a sea breeze that was working like gangbusters. Bring on the next cold front! We haven't flown Kahuku Motocross yet this season!


Thom said...

Again a good re-cap of the day.

You forgot about the call to Thom who was waiting at Ike's for some intel......ooops that's right did not get the call. No worries I hate that launch. I hope we can find another launch for this area soon.

Unfortunately I only scored the Diamond Head leg of this front. At Nanakuli I got a hike up and down and a flight that I wished I hiked down.

Our weather has not been anyting to brag about as of late, I am actually waiting for some of those truely 'ridge boring' flights, but ready to roll for more Pre & Post frontal action.

Keep the reports coming, just maybe sometimes before the flights over.

It's Time to Fly, 'Call or post Intentions', then Get Your Gear and Go!!

Funny my anti robot google password below is 'checkin'

Alex said...

I know you're joking, right? Waiting by the phone at Don's for a call to head out to Dillingham? That is a cute image. I posted three times on the chat box, starting the night before! No one responded. That's fine - this story is about choices. I will always choose Dillingham. I don't expect everyone else to feel the same way. That place doesn't come with a guarantee like our other sites - you just have to go out there and see for yourself. Even then you can't tell. Even after the 45 minute slog up the trail you can't tell. We didn't know it would work until we had survived that sketchy launch and got into the air! It was almost 2 o'clock by that time. I think by that time it was clear that anyone who wasn't already with us was going to choose Makapuu over a crap shoot at Dillingham. That's okay. We all make our choices. That's what this story is about!

NSbrian said...

It was great seeing you guys out here, stoked you got good conditions and flights! It was cool seeing you way out over the outer reef breakers on your way in to the beach LZ Alex!

Don't you think "worst launch" is a little harsh.? It just has a little more character than most other launches ;) I'm used to the hike and kinda like it.. Not as bad with a light weight miniwing and harness, although its always a bummer to have to hike back down those switchbacks!
Blasting the past couple days, not even the early a.m. Or late eve calm.