Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Blind Faith

It has been a long time since I felt I would rather be on the ground than in the air. Probably three or four years ago, low over the big trees in Valle de Bravo, when I assumed I would soon be hanging from a 100 foot pine tree. In my current arrangement, I don't get to fly much, and I seem to miss all the really good cross country days. Plus I have a new M6 that just wants to be flown hard.

After Jorge and I finished work, we headed to Makapuu to make the best of the moderate ESE conditions. Mad Dog was spotted looping the RC plane at Sandys, wisely thinking it wasn't a great flying day. Jorge was armed with his Akira, intent on nailing the perfect heli. He was a little skeptical about the conditions, understandably. I launched out of Juice first and went straight up to 1,400 feet with barely a turn. He launched that little acro wing in a bad cycle and scratched hard to get up. Cloudbase was between 1,600 and 1,800 feet. The conditions were a little chunky but the lift was good. Jorge did his best to spin his glider between the potholes in the sky.

I glided out over the lighthouse at 2,000 in some kind of convergence. Koko looked like a good call, but I did that tour Sunday. I knew it probably wasn't very good on the Koolau ridge, but I thought I could fly the outside line towards Olomana if I got into trouble. There was a lot of east flow above, so I figured I was landing elsewhere. It was bumpy at Puu'O'Kona, as it often is, but it gets better as you move along. At least that is what I thought.

I got blasted up to 2,500 in a cloud there, not in a nice even way. Kind of like swimming uphill. Pointing the glider toward the ocean and hanging on. I always snicker a little when someone tells me they don't need a compass, because they don't go in clouds. The problem is clouds don't listen sometimes and have their way with me.

Feeling I escaped the ugly air, I flew the edge of the clouds towards Rebar City. Pushing bar of course. I hit a chunk of air that yanked me straight up, glider behind me for a long time, I assumed a big frontal was coming, but the air and M6 behaved nicely and I continued along 100 feet higher.

At Rebar City I was kind of low. The wind was from different directions but had a mostly east push. It was consistently ratty, and I was unable to turn in anything because of the constant turbulence. I was rolling side to side the entire time. The funny thing was it was generally lifty all over. I was actually giving Goto's house the eye for a landing, when I found something big enough to turn in. A couple of turns and I was back in the clouds at 1,800 feet.

The air was consistently uncomfortable, and the prospects downrange seemed possible, but this air didn't leave me in the mood for anything but a large LZ. I started to wander towards Kailua Dump, but decided the RC park was my kind of LZ. I glided out over Kawainui Marsh, and actually thought I could make Kalama Beach Park. But over Kailua town the headwind increased. The slow progress, the constant pitching around, and all the roofs and wires below convinced me to turn downwind to the RC park. Of course the RC park seemed to be a thermal trigger, with windsocks switching 90 degrees and a giant dust cloud coming out of the Ameron Quarry downwind. It figured: I decided to go land and I couldn't, so I tried to spiral down, getting tossed like a rag doll, vario chirping away with no particular rhythm.

Eventually, I slid it in with a few near ground swings, happy to be safely on the ground. Funny thing, it wasn't even that windy there.

My wing man, Jorge was already on his way. I chatted with a couple of RC guys, and chalked it up to a little training for Chelan in July. I am still not sure why I even tried to go XC, but I am fascinated with making the best of the day I have. A better pilot would probably have kept on going, but the constant swinging around low is tiring. I look forward to getting a good day for a change. But I am happy with what I get.


Alex said...

Dave, thanks for the yarn! Great to have someone else contributing for a change. And what a different voice you bring to the site. Your stories always seem to read like cautionary tales, except without any caution. Or like accident reports, except there's never actually an accident at the end. You hit all the typical factors in those reports: desperation for an XC flight, a new wing, some bad ideas (of which you are king), and a loose connection with safety and legality. I can't wait to see what you can do on a day with actual safe and good conditions. I hope you get one soon!

firedave2 said...

Alex: It does seem like an accident report, maybe i prefer to write about unusual experiences.

I am still waiting for a classic XC day with all the gang, but they are getting rarer. A string of good weather would ensure that.

Thom said...

Dave, that was a doosy. Someone please remind me not to follow Dave, cause I have. Fortunatley the times I have followed him have been great flights.....except the one across the train tracks but that was much closer to the ground!

Thanks for edge of the seat story. Dave could have so many names. 'CatMan' cause he always seems to land on his feet!!

It's Time to Fly Get Your Gear and Go!! But following Dave could be a no-no!

Thom said...

PS no more talk of Chelan being rowdy. I am up to 4 rolls of TP with no more room in my sack......either of them.