Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Long Ride with Mentor and Ground Support

I just couldn't come up with a title to summarize all the little features of yesterday's flight. It was the third day of Duck's return and the third day of personal records for me. I wish I did not have to work today, but the Prez comes in tonight, and I am picking him up, so maybe we'll have another big one Wednesday.

The day before yesterday I was up for almost 4 hours, which is a correction from the previous log. The GPS does not tell fish stories. And then yesterday the GPS had me down for 5 hours 38 minutes, which might be short by a few because I forgot to turn it on at launch. Well, that is personal record, #1, for the longest time in the air. But no one will ever beat Flash's duration record of 7 hours. [Editor's note: I think Marathon Mark may have stayed up for 8...]

It was boiling up to be an epic day at Makapuu, one that we had not seen in some time. Arriving at the LZ around 11:30 to find no one in the air was disturbing. The tandem duo were already on launch as I hiked toward Juice, and Jorge got airborne as I reached the rug. I was alone on launch with no solo pilots who would travel north with me.

The air was a little lumpy in the playground (lighthouse to the pier), which made me wonder what it was going to be like down the range. I figured I should stay local and someone would show. Fireman called me right before launch to complain that he was working and that I should go get some, so he was out of the picture. We definitely need our non-jobbers back for days like this!

After a bit, Maui Doug radioed up, "Thom, going into land if you wanna wait for me." Well, he seemed to be taking forever, so I went ahead and turned left. It was lumpy with strong thermals but that's the way it often is in the early afternoon. I made it to Puu o Kona, and then tried to go to Olomana, thinking it would be a rough rodeo if I tried to go behind it. After two attempts with that route and then a verification of the rodeo behind Olomana, I headed back to the playground. It was good to be back. I heard B-Ray on radio saying he was coming up, and Maui Doug was finally up solo, and then I heard that Jorge was launching solo as well. Visitor Aiken was also in the air.

I was going to land to go get something to eat. I am guessing it was approaching 2 pm and I was hungry. Maui Doug was all fired up to go. Well, I figured I would let him go first and I might follow, after I see what the air feels like to him. I pushed out towards Rabbit and started chomping on some Gary West Jerky and a few swigs of water. That's when the bell rang in my head: round two.

As I was benching up at the pine trees, Jorge came whizzing by way below me on Fireman's M4. Well at least Dave's wing got to fly even if he didn't! Jorge just kept going without stopping. Holy crap! I was only around 1,700 feet, and I don't like to leave til at least 1,800. I sighted Jorge's vapor trail, watching as he got lower and lower, then bang, he was above everyone. How does he know? By the time I got to Puu o Kona, for the second time today, in much smoother air I might add, Jorge appeared to be heading to Olomana. Well, at least I was right on that call, he must have thought going behind it would be lumpy today.

We were battling a lower cloud base now, at around 2,900 feet, with sparse gaps between to get higher. Finally I got my chance and headed to Olomana, and this time I made it. Maui Doug was fighting above the new construction site below Olomana, which gives off a good thermal. He was not high enough to keep it going though, and finally dirted out at the site.

Mr. Aiken had pushed out beforehand and landed somewhere in Waimanalo, and I never heard from B-Ray. It was just me and Jorge. Wait a minute - where the hell is he? I am circling around Olomana with sporadic thermals, bouncing from 1,800 feet to 2,200. How much do you need to get to the Pali? I never went that way before. I have gone to Olomana several times, either dirting, heading to Lanikai, or back to Green Walls. Then I figured it out, talking out loud to myself: dummy, it's down wind. I hit a thermal and followed it off the back to 2,400 feet.

Gaza was working in Waimanalo giving us the play by play, and I found out that Jorge had gone the back way following Green Walls, and was now approaching Hygienics. Does he have a freakin motor on that thing? I know I am slow but damn. I radioed my whereabouts to Jorge along the way, only to find him already approaching the Pyramid.

I was getting tired, and now Duck was following me from the road, giving me a safety net and encouragement. I started pushing out to land at Maui Doug's when the first contact with Jorge in a while was heard. Duck said, "He is at Pyramid trying to decide which way to go." For some reason I turned back to go get some more. I could hear Woody on the radio too, which helped break up the monotony of hearing my own voice. Duck was on the speaker phone with Alex, who was in D.C. hearing all the banter and getting fired up. So I figured, I was not alone.

Jorge came out of the mist and said, "I tried a few times from Pyramid to go down the valley and a few times through BoogaBooga. Let's go back to Makapuu." What the hell! I looked back, and Makapuu looked a long ways away. I was getting tired and the adrenaline tank was running empty. I said, "Let's get to at least Kahana, and then we have a ride too". Jorge responded, "The clouds are too low back there." Well, when Jorge says the clouds are too low, it just has to be not good, cause 'Jorge Would Go!' So I pointed back toward Makapuu with Jorge trailing low and behind. After a few ridges and getting scolded by Jorge to stay away from the clouds, I let him lead so I could try to follow his lines.

Apparently no object fixation works on Jorge's lines. I was getting cloud bounced and was either too far out or too far in, arriving behind him at every stop low. Duck followed us all the way back to Kaneohe, just in case I got tired. Jorge did his final wait at the Pali where I came in super low. He told me to get high and go towards Olomana then edge back to Green Walls. You got this, he said, and then he blazed away as I benched up.

I stayed in sight of him all the way back to Makapuu, where I caught him, arriving much higher, and I finally got my camera out to get a shot of my flight mentor.

It was a great flight. I made it to the ridge behind Pyramid and all the way back to Makapuu. So all together it was a short out and back to the ridge behind Olomana, and then a long out and back to the ridge behind Pyramid, which adds up to my farthest Oahu flight, making it my personal record #2, in a single day.

Thanks to all for the radio quips of help: Maui Doug, Gaza, Duck (and Alex in spirit), and Woody from Kahana. Duck, again, for bringing all the good weather home. To Gary West Meats for sustenance. Biggest Mahalo goes to Jorge for making me go all the way back and showing me the way. Even though I could have done better following his instructions, I feel confident for the next time.

It's Time to Fly Get Your Gear, Pack a Lunch and Go!!!!!!


Sawzall said...

Great story Thom..., 3 personal records! That's like 3 Firsts isn't it? Where/when's the party?

JK said...

Great flying Thom & Jorge! I would love to see your track log(s). Please post up when you have the Leonardo thing figured out. Two no-fly days here in FR. Today was via ferrata; a fitting event for monkeys. Tomorrow looks flyable, finally. How far was that flight of your? Like 35 miles? Impressive...

Puka Wai said...

Awesome flight and great story - you've come a looooong way Thom; I remember a time when you as a green pilot made a similar flight, a time you thought "sidehill landing" meant crashing into a mountain and that a speed bar was an establishment that sold pharmaceuticals. That flight so long ago only required dumb luck of being in the right place at the right time and an ethereal guiding angel. This flight clearly required all the skill you have gained since then, and maybe a corporeal guiding angel. In any case, I have greenwalls of envy!