Friday, December 06, 2013

Hawaii XC League

The Hawaii Paragliding Association would like to invite all pilots making cross country flights on the islands to participate in a friendly online competition, a cross country league to be scored during the course of each calendar year using the Leonardo platform. Starting in 2014, let's have some fun and compare our tracks from various sites around the islands during the year. This league is not just an annual competition, it's also a great way to share our flying knowledge and experience.

Let's admit that Hawaii is not an ideal place to fly cross country: the clouds are lower than the mountains on most days, the wind is often strong, the jungle is vast and thick, our airspace is restricted by civil and military bases, and the islands are too small to register any world class distance. But we do have a few cross country advantages: ridge lift everywhere on some islands, numerous beach landings within reach on most islands, and some of the world's best scenery on all the islands. Somehow the advantages outweigh the deficiencies for most of us!

Best Hawaii XC Flights of All Time

As of today's count, the Leonardo database already holds 642 track logs from some amazing flights made on all four islands since 2002. Click the image to the left to see them, starting with the most recent flights logged. Our wayward son and best XC pilot Doug posted many of his greatest flights up there before he left, and our recent visitor Josh posted his latest record breaking flight up there as well. Notable flights missing from the database: Doug's over the back flight during his farewell party, and any flights at all by Jorge or Dave!

You can also sort the list by XC points or distance or duration. Here's the list sorted by XC points. And here it is sorted by straight distance. Click the column headers to change the sorting.

You can also compare multiple flights made at a particular site on a particular day, to see which pilots took which lines, or you can compare flights from any days at all to look at overall strategy.

Note that the above lists don't offer any way to filter out invalid logs. There are a few bogus flights logged in there. But with the league we are setting up we will have the ability to weed out invalid flights so the contest will be as fair and legitimate as we can make it.

The XC League: powered by Leonardo

This online league system is the same as that used by many other clubs in the world and also many regions in the US, including the Pacific Northwest, San Diego, Colorado, Alaska, and New England. It's a ranking of the cumulative points from the best six flights of each participating pilot during the course of the year. Flights are scored by a formula that is limited to five turn points, with bonus points for coming back to your start place (a flat triangle), and even more bonus points for coming back after making three legs of fairly equal distance (FAI triangle). The online system will automatically figure out the optimal method to score a given flight.

The league flights can also be viewed in order by criteria other than points: you can view the league scored by six best straight distance flights, as well as other factors. Also, please note that because the formula only allows five turn points, you won't be scored for more than two laps of any flight. That's a good way to keep marathon ridge soaring flights from skewing the score!

Every type of flying competition requires flights to meet the legal conditions of their region, whether it's the PWC or the X-Alps or a regional US competition. The same is true of online competitions. If your track log shows violations of airspace or nighttime flying it will not count. It's not hard to log great XC flights that stay clear of airspace and take place during daylight. Josh did it in his sleep!

Cloud clearance is not yet tracked by GPS, thank goodness, so we will leave that up to the honor system. Just as in other competitions, please play nice and don't cheat on your buddies by flying inside the clouds!

The one thing we're doing differently from other regional leagues: we are allowing anyone to post qualifying flights, locals and visitors alike, and we're not including flights that local pilots might have in places other than Hawaii. Let's see how that works. Essentially that makes the league more about Hawaii flying and less about what Hawaii pilots can do while they're traveling to more XC friendly destinations.

Easier than Ever

There are very few pilots left who aren't at least logging their flights with a GPS, and most pilots are also already uploading them. C'mon, Grandpa! These days it's easier than ever. Most smart phones have apps that will use the phone's GPS to log a flight and automatically upload an IGC file to Leonardo. If you need help with your GPS unit or smartphone, let us know.

To upload your flights to the Leonardo flight database, you need to sign up for an account on if you don't already have one. Once you are signed up you can submit a track log at this link. Your track log needs to be in IGC format, which is the format a typical pilot's GPS will record (or a paragliding app on a smartphone).

Once you've uploaded your track, it will automatically go into the queue for the Hawaii XC League if it takes place in Hawaii. You don't need to designate the league during your upload.

Very Useful Tools

Google Earth. The best tool ever invented for paraglider pilots to scout out launches and landings, examine flights and terrain and airspace, etc. If you don't already play with it you're probably not a paraglider pilot!

Airspace. It's a lot easier to stay legal if you know where the airspace actually is. There are 2D sectionals available online, but the best tool is the set of 3D polygons by Lloyd Bailey that you can view in Google Earth. Download the US file right now and keep it in your Google Earth saved places. You'll need to disable some of them to see things more clearly, like class E, and class X warnings.

XC Planner. This is the cleverest tool for XC pilots. It helps you plan out your record breaking flights. In the preferences, be sure and choose Leonardo as your scoring league, and then proceed to sketch out your ambitions by clicking between various turn points to see how a flight would be scored. You can while away a lot of rainy hours looking at this tool.

GPSDump or GPSBabel. Two great free programs to help you download and work with IGC files from your GPS.

Apps. I know of at least five great apps for various phones that will record track logs. I've used Butterfly Avionics FreeFlight,  and ThermGeek, and FlySkyHy, all on the iPhone. I can recommend any of them. And on Android phones, people are using Gaggle and XCSoar with good results. If you use an app on your phone you should also get an external battery because the constant GPS use will drain your phone in no time.


firedave2 said...

So you are saying i can do it all off my iPhone? Interesting.

Could i just have the NSA automatically post my track logs?

Alex said...

I'm sure they could! But actually most apps will upload your track automatically after you land. It's super easy. The only tricky part is getting an external battery because the constant GPS use will drain your battery fast.

firedave2 said...

Actually I will work on getting it together.

Nice article.

Thom said...

Excellent article, it was nice to be on top for the 'test' year. With Dave JK and others in the mix I will be scratching to stay in. Even Doug H will make 6 standing flights on a short visit. It's open to other visitors too?! ouch, we'll get a few big dogs in here for a week and just kill it.

This is just a fun league and we hope to all learn something from others tracks and lines.

Joey said...

Nothing wrong with a little friendly local competition :) Always trailing behind Alex, it's motivation to push myself outside my comfort zone here on Oahu. We did get some great experience at Ratrace and I personally recommend everyone that loves XC to give it a try, it really opened my eyes to a new perspective of paragliding and made me a little more willing to push my own boundaries here..there's just something about booga booga land that makes me apprehensive sometimes.

I use the Thermgeek app on iPhone and it works great. I just upload the IGC file right to Leonardo and voila.

JKS said...

Excellent article, Alex! I am psyched for 2014 to begin. There is a lot of fun ahead of us. This is just what we need to accelerate the knowledge base.

Alex said...

Ike and I just discovered a very cool tool built into Google Earth. After you download a KML track to view, you can right click on the track (control click on a Mac) and select Show Elevation Profile, which brings up a barograph similar to the one in Leonardo that allows you to animate the flight and see the altitude in detail. Check with Ike or me if you can't get it to work.

allanc said...

Been posting flights to Leonaedo using XCsoar. Will be looking forward to the 2014 contest. Are there classes or do the EN B wings compete with the big dogs.

Alex said...

Leonardo only distinguishes between sport and open class. That doesn't give us much of a breakdown. Only Harvey and Jorge are flying open class.

I would guess that everyone knows it's harder to fly longer XC flights on a lower rated glider. Or on a neighbor island. Or if you are a new pilot. You'll certainly get more respect for high scores if you suffer any of those handicaps.

But historically, many of our record flights have been done on low rated gliders by new pilots. I think all that the hot gliders do is make you lazy (speaking for myself of course). Marathon Mark broke the state record way back when by flying from Makapuu to Kahuku golf course on a crappy old DHV 1-2 wing, when he was pretty new. Don flew to the Pyramid and back in a DHV 1 when he was just starting out. I'm sure there are other similar examples. Too bad we don't have track logs from those good old days!

Thom said...

Ok, just to reiterate above. There are rules in this league. Some of the monkeys don't want to abide by these and want to make changes, I say go for it get involved, chirping at me will get you nothing. Because I was on top they all picked on me relentlessly. So, my flights have been removed. I fly to enjoy, but when it just brings ridicule and debate mostly to rile me up or whatever its not worth it, its not fun. I will fly by what little rules we have, when those rules are defiled without penalty among st friends then what good are they.

I will continue to fly, as safe as I can, I will enjoy my flights where ever they may end. I will keep a log of my flights that are within the realms of FAA and also the ones that fall short, cause there all good flights.

I've never had such a worse feeling of doing good till this. So the league is yours. To the ones that would prefer to have no guidelinse, no rules because that would be UNSAFE have fun. Cause I will in a league of my own be having fun.

Alex said...

Sorry to hear the biggest proponent of the league is already bowing out! I hope you change your mind! It's not about points or rules or debating, it's just for fun!

We are going to continue with our first attempt at an online Hawaii XC league for this next year. Hopefully we'll get a lot of participation. If you are:

1. a pilot making XC flights in Hawaii,
2. skilled enough to log a legal XC flight (according to FAR 103, airspace, clouds, etc.)
3. interested in a casual and fun year long comp

then this will be a fun contest to be part of! If any of the above don't apply, or if it doesn't appeal to you, no one will force you to play! But I suspect it will appeal to a lot of us! We have tons of great qualifying flights from last year and years past to look at, as examples of what's possible. This league offers a great way to push the boundaries of what's possible and share the tracks with each other!

Looking forward to logging some airtime with all of you in 2014.

If anyone has questions, please don't bug Thom about it! Give me a shout and I'll be happy to explain anything. It's really very simple and I know it's well within the flying and technical abilities of our talented XC crew!