Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Notes from the Convergence (a Link-Up Manifesto)

On most days, the central flatlands of O'ahu are not an inviting place to fly a paraglider. When the trades are blowing, ragged stacks of cumulus tumble over the Ko'olau range into the saddle that connects the Honolulu suburbs with the North Shore. Here they regain some form passing over subdivisions, solar farms and agriculture land before getting supercharged in the Waianae mountains. If the winds are strong, the hot turbulent soup is swept westward, out to sea in long cloud streets that mark our position long before the island itself can be sighted on the horizon. When the air is still, low pressure systems usually provide ample moisture that collects in the gulches and the vegetation, until the morning sun lights the fuse. By lunchtime the cumulonimbus are breathing deep and by afternoon the center of island is cast into shadow and rain.

Every winter there are some days that refuse to follow this plot. Perhaps a cold parcel of air has wafted down from the Aleutians, playing the post-frontal caboose behind a North Pacific freight train. Maybe the trades are bent up and away from us by a cold front passing to the north, creating southeast flow in the archipelago. As we fall into the lee of the southern chain, the clouds above the Ko'olau vanish. It feels as though the island is drawn into a leeside bubble wrung of moisture by Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Haleakala. You could probably count the annual tally on your fingers but these rare days produce dry air, light wind and high cloudbase: the trifecta of cross country dreaming. You can put together a great day with only two of the three, and it is only in the moment that you will know if you have landed a real triple score unicorn. Of these factors, the cloudbase is the most elusive. The cherry on the perfect cake of a day is an inversion layer somewhere between six and eight thousand feet keeping the sky in check. 

On February fourth just before one o'clock, JK Smith and I crossed over the back of Nanakuli and quite suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a superb cross country day, the dial pegged at eleven. Three hours later we touched down at Makapu'u, having abandoned our primary goal of making Dillingham airfield and going with the flow of the day instead. It unfolded as a three-parter in which the weather played the lead. There were no low saves, or close calls. We didn't scrape through any sketchy upwind transitions. The whole route was flown at trim speed or better, despite some significant zigs and zags. We flew as a team, communicated strategy and tactics on the fly, and alternated leading and following. Perhaps JK could have pulled it off on his own, but I'm certain I wouldn't have. Our story begins with the weather, which always writes the rules.

The Stage

The light wind days usually begin with clear air draped between Oahu's mountain ranges, the clouds having been flushed out to sea on the overnight land breezes. Around mid morning the cumulus pop out, and by monitoring the speed and breadth of this progression one can glean some feeling for the potential of the day. I have often driven from Town to the North Shore late in the morning on these days in a bid to fly onshore flow behind Dillingham airfield. Between Pearl City and Mililani, the sky often looks like a cartoon paradise for free flight. Flat bottomed popcorn clouds space out at polite intervals, with ample room between their bases and the terrain that slopes up gradually from Pearl Harbor to Wahiawa. As the island heats up, you might notice the clouds drifting south to north over Waipio, and on the far side of the saddle the flow pulls north to south from Haleiwa. The collision of these sea breezes creates a convergence belt between the ranges.

In the Alps, it is said the heat center lies near the Furka Pass in Switzerland. I'm not aware of any official proclamations on the subject, but if I had to guess I would pin Oahu's heat center somewhere in Mililani Mauka. A pilot pinging out into orbit above the convergence of the Alps' valley winds might spot Her Majesty's 007 racing his Aston-Martin past the Rhone glacier. Here, we have to settle for a soccer mom unloading groceries from her Toyota Highlander.

The quality of the sky may be impressive, but there are some reasons why pilots are not often romping through the playground. Flats being flat, the only current option for foot launching is to get up and over the back of the mountains. This is a reasonable prospect coming from Nanakuli since the conditions that work well on the westside produce cooperative skies in the central belt. Chipping over the back of the Ko'olau is a different animal since the light sea breeze days tend to be pretty hard work getting downrange from the established launches at Makapu'u or Kahana. If you top out a thermal at 3,800 feet at the back of Waikane and point it towards Waipio there's no guarantee of making it out of the mountains on glide. It's a committing move best suited for someone who is either pretty sure they are going to find another climb, or who doesn't mind finding a ridge line LZ amidst the ferns and strawberry guava, and hoofing it out.

The other complicating factor is the airspace surrounding Wheeler Army Airfield. It encompasses much of Mililani and blocks us from tapping into the good stuff on at least some of the days that otherwise would be working well. The day I came through with JK, the optimal route would have headed deep into the airspace towards the Mililani Golf Club. In January, Marcel set and completed a task to Patsy Mink Regional Park, and reported the convergence line far off his left shoulder to the north.

Doug Hoffman has flown the area more than anyone, and it is encouraging that he actually reports finding the best flying most of the time further south, the Waipio Costco often triggering nice climbs in the convergence belt. I can't do justice to Doug's knowledge on the subject, but I wonder if his preferred approach using light northeast flow to tee off from the back of the Ko'olau could explain this difference. If the overall flow is northeast, then we would expect the convergence to be pushed south, whereas on the day I flew with JK we started with gentle flow from the southwest, which should allow the southern sea breeze to dominate and push the action further north. One possible solution to the airspace issue is simply to ask permission to cross. We do this routinely passing behind the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station, so perhaps in the future this will be a non-issue.

 Marcel, Tim I had been flying the westside on every light/variable day this winter, scoring a half dozen interesting days at Nanakuli and Ka'ena point. None of these days however had a high enough base to really use the back terrain of the range without danger of overdevelopment. I was able to sneak over the back of Makua valley into Waialua on a day that Ka'ala and the back of Makaha were buried in tall cumulus, and Marcel's chip over the back to Patsy Mink was limited by the sea breeze flushing the lift north into airspace, leaving him with a long glide through the blue. We had been watching the forecast develop nicely for this particular Friday, the sounding forecast tool on Windy was calling for high base throughout the island. The wind models at surface were classic sea breeze, but above 3,000 feet it looked like we were starting with southwest flow, clocking west then finally north by late afternoon.

The plan was to get high at the back of Nanakuli, then scamper north along the back crest where we would hopefully cross Ka'ala and connect with pilots enjoying what we thought might be a stellar day behind the Dillingham airfield. If conditions held, a return trip on the north flow back to our start point would be a fantastic tour of the highest terrain on the island. In addition to the usual westside enthusiasts, we were expecting JK to join in. The juicy forecast was sufficient to lure him away from his normal habit of charging long out-and-backs from Makapu'u.

ACT I: The Price of Entry

Marcel was first on scene, reporting clear skies with a solitary wispy popping out over the front pyramid of Nanakuli. There was zero wind on the ground and we hustled to organize gear and get up the hill. JK was nowhere to be seen, and right as we shouldered our packs and starting talking shit about him being all bark and no bite, he came swinging around the corner in his battered old Volkswagen wearing a huge grin, and we hoofed it up the hill as a foursome. The standard launch at the thousand foot level had regular cycles, coming in mostly on the sunny school side. I was first to lay out. The cycles were cross and fluky, and I flailed. Tim reset my wing three or four times, then assisted Marcel a couple times after that before finally attending to his own setup thirty minutes later. The terrible footing meant that you had to coax the wing with riser and brake control alone. If you tried to move under the wing, the loose rocks underneath the weeds would trip you up and it was game over. 

Marcel was first to escape the sufferfest and get airborne. I was hoping to see him ping out immediately, but instead he hunted around below launch level for ages before slowly ratcheting upward hopping from bubble to bubble- a hundred up, fifty down. Two hundred up, a hundred down. He finally got established high above the front peak and then JK got away next, sans iPhone which had knocked loose during one of the aborted earlier attempts. Tim unstrapped from his harness and found the phone in the grass, but in a cruel twist of fate after helping all three of the other pilots launched with a speedbar line tangle that forced him out to an early landing. I was last into the air, ninety minutes after first spreading my wing. I pulled my rig out of the kiawe bushes for the fifth or sixth time and moved onto the spine proper that bisects the school and landfill sides before catching a cycle square on the nose and escaping the mid-day heat. After Tim left for the beach I was alone on the peak, fighting hard to climb above launch height. This was perplexing since there was high cloud marking lift, and the noon sun should have been powering the house thermal up the spine like a locomotive. One explanation for the difficult conditions could be that the high base goes hand in hand with more stable conditions, and the thermals need more energy to break free from the terrain.

Marcel's radio was not transmitting properly, and his whereabouts remained a mystery until I was able to check my phone later in the flight. JK had done a warmup lap running a clockwise perimeter of the valley before re-joining the house thermal, announcing his return on radio "Who's ready to get high and go somewhere?" as if we had just been bopping around waiting for him to finish his calisthenics. As it turns out, Marcel had set to work breaking trail to the north, leading the charge to our declared goal of Dillingham. He was able to connect with the low spine that runs through the back of Waianae, but slowly lost the battle against a strong sea breeze, deciding that the back terrain was too risky with the strong wind so close to the looming venturi of Kolekole pass. With JK joining me we had double the search power and it wasn't long before we topped out the frisky thermal over the front peak and connected to lift along the back crest. The base ebbed and flowed with active cloud roiling around but we had a few hundred feet of clearance to scan around and plan the next move. The route along the crest to the north looked like it would go as far as the pass, but the back of Makaha was already buried in tall cumulus. That left us with two options: Retreat, or escape to the east. We were too high and close to base to see the sky in the flats, but the first few miles of terrain was visible and it was good. Dark, crisp shadows marked a checkerboard across the ag lands of Kunia. After confirming wind speed and direction (5 mph, southwest) we went on glide from 3,800 feet. Seven minutes later and twelve hundred feet lower, JK's Alpina hooked a hard left turn thirty seconds in front of me. I pushed bar to intercept his thermal before the ladder was pulled up underneath him. Three minutes later we had climbed 1,800 feet back to base in smooth lift. The day was in play.

ACT II: The Flow of the Day

Our short trip inland away from the sea air improved the cloudbase by six hundred feet. We had two thirds of a vertical mile between the ground and cloud to work with as we veered south away from the Wheeler airspace. A blue hole lay directly in front of us, and I radioed JK my intention to hug the northern border. I wanted to stick close to the edge of airspace to stay in reach of the convergence band draped across Mililani. He had chosen the southern edge of the hole, giving the airspace a wider berth. The time it took us to communicate our plans left us on opposite sides of the hole. I consider this moment the biggest mistake of our flight, since by the time our lines converged on the far side, I found a lazy climb but he was too far out to double back and join, and continued towards Waipio towards the next best looking trigger. The situation could have been reversed, had he found a thermal first I would have been too far out to pounce. 

By allowing ourselves to be separated we negated the advantage of team flying. You need to be close, ideally within a hundred yards to jump on the other pilot's climb or effectively sample the air left to right on a glide. We wound up in our own climbs a mile apart, within sight of each other but essentially flying on our own. For the next thirty minutes we slowly made our way east, keeping tabs on each other's position and intentions via radio. I thought there was a chance we could still make Dillingham by carving a vast counterclockwise detour around Wheeler and re-connecting with the Waianae range in the Mokule'ia Forest Reserve. JK reported weak climbs further south over the Waipio Costco, and he let me know that he was trending south in an effort to follow the sun patches and avoid the deep shade. At the time however, I was allowing the weak sea breeze to frisbee me north into a shady zone of abundant lift just mauka of Mililani town, and it was apparent that the closer I flew to the dark cloud band, the better the lift. The convergence was working great. I would top out a climb at base and push out on bar to get clear, then dip a toe back in when necessary. The idea of continuing north, punching under that dark belt to Mokule'ia was suddenly loony. It was impossible to see the extent of the development in the thick mass, and I had visions of getting hoovered up into one of those cu-nims that eventually consumes the whole center of the island. The picture to the east was playful in comparison. A path of high cloud extended almost to the crest of the Ko'olau, intersecting the range somewhere behind Waikane. The deal was sealed by the fact that the upper wind layer was gently pushing east, meaning that every second spent turning circles was also scooting us towards our home turf on the peaks of the Ko'olau.

I radioed my findings to JK, who gave chase and used the sea breeze to make quick progress north, hooking a climb just uphill from the Mililani Cemetery about a thousand feet above ground level. His track log through this section shows a perfect climb up through the layers, and you can see the wind direction shift from south to west above 3,000 feet as he joined the game of peekaboo with the convergence. I was never seriously worried about landing out during the twenty minutes it took to traverse the range. It was working well, and during the glides it was relaxing and smooth enough to pull out the phone and document the absurd point of view. 

After leaving the manicured grass of the Waiawa prison behind, I kept an eye on the ridge systems noting which ones connected to the lowlands versus which ended at the bottom of the gullies. Had I faced the worst case scenario of sinking out, in the gentle wind and clear skies it would have been easy to pull off a ridge top landing and walk out with a great story.  The west-east convergence band intersected a cloud street running parallel to the crest, quite high but on the town side. I was expecting to get a boost passing under the cloud street but none materialized. My hope was that if I could gain contact with that cloud street it would provide a stress free highway to the Pali and beyond, at which point we could make Makapu'u on glide. As it turned out my 4,600 feet was not enough to latch onto the cloud street and I intercepted the crest behind Waiahole beach park with about 1,500 feet of clearance over the peaks.  I made my way southeast on the town side of the crest, expecting the triggers to be working better on the sunny side of the range, underneath the high cloud street. 

To my great surprise the radio burst to life.  Reaper had spotted me while driving home from the North Shore with his mom. I asked him to call the Kaneohe tower and clear the airspace, expecting a cruiser ride down the range above the high points. I was late to notice that my sunny side strategy wasn't working and by the time I crossed behind Kahulu'u was forced to duck onto the ocean side of the crest and follow the spine out towards the Hygienic store LZ. I didn't get far before a nice climb lifted me back up above the crest again, and suddenly JK was on radio asking my location. He then reported spotting me from his lofty perch over five thousand feet behind the Pyramid. That sounded implausible. When I craned my neck around and looked up, sure enough he came floating down from seaward as if he had done a deployment bag drop out of one of the tour helicopters. We worked hard to gain some useable altitude over the peak, but it just wasn't working. Finally JK announced that we would just have to soar the sea breeze all the way back to Makapu'u. This sounded far-fetched to me, the idea of hugging the terrain for twenty miles made me pucker. I figured it would be tragic to pull off a great flight only to crash land in the trees trying to escape the back of a valley after the day shut down. Reaper and JK assured me that was not an issue. Between the two of them they could rattle off the LZ's in descending order of preference from any spot between Waikane and Waimanalo. So with JK leading, Reaper driving chase and me fresh out of excuses, we turned the corner and headed deep into the bowl behind Ahuimanu.

ACT III: Every Foot Counts

It would be slightly incorrect to say we soared down the range. There was anabatic flow which collected in some areas and not others, but often as not you would feel a little burble off your wingtip, search out and find a weak thermal that would allow you to turn 360's quite close to the mountain without drifting into the face. It was a grueling test of discipline to keep making progress downrange, searching for scraps on each successive feature that would allow upward progress. It was grinding, slow work and I was more than happy to let my wingman break the trail. This flight was only my third time traversing the section between Kahulu'u and the Pali. JK did one hundred percent of the hard work on this grinder of a home stretch. I would sit tight and top off while he hunted further, then elbow my way in like a hyena on his prey. It took an hour to make it to the Likelike tunnels, we could have gone faster on beach cruisers. I stopped to enjoy a sweet climb almost directly over the Pali gap, and you can just see the beginning of a light north wind pulling through on the tracklog. As we rounded the flank of Konahuanui, Jorge came on radio having spotted us from Green Walls where he and visitor Yun were working to get above ridge height, coming the other way from Makapu'u. I couldn't see them, but hearing Jorge's stoke was a major boost. The fact that they were doing well meant that the rest of the route would go- it was just a matter of holding our shit together and keeping it between the lines. 

For the last real move of the flight, JK left Konahuanui arcing a deep line close to the face around the back of Maunawili. I watched him very carefully from the high ground on the flank of the mountain before beelining it to where he had found the best air in front of Mt. Olympus. By the time we crossed paths with Jorge and Yun at Lanipo everyone was turning figure eights in the rising air, a north breeze had filled in ever so slightly and we all pinged out to base. The vise was released and a short while later Reaper was handing us frosty IPAs in the Makapu'u LZ.

The Big Link-up: Fever Dream or Low-Hanging Fruit?

Just how hard is it to link the ranges? To answer the question it may be useful to come up with a paragliding version of the Drake Equation. In the early sixties, astronomer Frank Drake developed a formula to estimate the number of detectable alien civilizations in existence. It's basically a long list of probabilities multiplied together. If we were to estimate the number of days per year we could link up our flying sites on opposite ends of the island we would tally up the number of days with light wind, ok stability (no overdevelopment), and high base. Then we would need to figure in the pilot-specific factors. An enthusiastic intermediate pilot like myself needs much better conditions to make it through than the real pros. An organized team will have a better chance than a solo charger at solving the tricky cruxes so we would figure that in. Finally, you would factor in the declared goal, since it makes a difference if you choose to fly west versus heading east. The only reason I believe this might be useful is to figure out which factors are the real deal breakers and which can be overcome with skill and planning. The wind is a deal breaker, low base is a deal breaker, and the rest is negotiable. For instance, I could see a motivated group of pilots making it happen on a normal light/variable day that eventually overdevelops by getting an early start on the west side, slipping over the back before it consolidates in the high ground, then crossing the flats as things really start to pop. Once you've decided on the go/no-go factors, it's just a matter of getting better at forecasting so that you can be in the right place at the right time with the right plan, and the willingness to scrap the plan if it looks like the sky is taking you somewhere else. 

There are a number of other aesthetic or adventurous lines I hope to fly that are not necessarily that big, but the obvious mic-drop line of the island would be Makapu'u to the tip of Ka'ena, or vice versa.  Maybe the perfect day for this one would start with light trades in the morning to allow an early launch, but then dropping to light/variable once the pilots are in position to cross over. The convergence would then be just starting to turn on when the team hits the flats, before the sea breeze shoves all the popcorn cumulus into a thick dark band in the middle. If the team made it to the Waianae range before the eastern slopes go into the shade, they would have a better chance of benching up and over. This section is the last unsolved piece of the puzzle. Our linkup pioneer, Doug Hoffman, has connected the dots from Makapu'u across the flats but hasn't yet gotten established in the Waianae range. Nanakuli to Ka'ena is a challenging flight, but it's been done before; it's not a mystery how to make it go, and the route should work late into the day moving towards towards the setting sun. What about going west-east? The fact that JK and I made it through on my first foray into the flats is evidence that from Nanakuli on, it isn't too hard on the right day. The Ka'ena point launch doesn't start working until the sea breeze starts to pull through in the late morning. This could make it tough to get to the Ko'olau crossing in time to catch the powerful part of the day. Perhaps some work is required to figure out the northern line from Makua - Mokule'ia Forest Reserve - Dole Plantation, then follow the Poamoho trail up to Booga Booga Land. Alternatively, from the northern flank of Ka'ala we could cut straight across Wheeler on a weekend day the tower is not active.  All of this talk is purely academic navel-gazing without the weather to make it happen, so the question remains- How often will it work?

To help put the question in context I reached out to a number of pilots who have some knowledge of flying the high days in interesting places. Last year, Colorado pilot Kris Holub observed the convergence between the ranges and figured he'd give it a crack at the first opportunity. Before his vacation was over he had sent the line from Nanakuli to Kaneohe. A couple weeks ago I asked him about the flight and he described the last leg to reach the Ko'olau crest as touch and go, without much buffer and was calculating his glide to the lone red dirt bailout LZ he could see high on the backside of the range. He found no lift at the crest itself and headed out in search of a thermal off the flats. Finding none he put it down at the community college. From his description it sounds like he had a lower base than we did, but pretty consistent across the saddle. I wonder if Kris actually had pretty similar conditions on the Ko'olau to JK and me, since we also found dead air on top of the range. JK's experience was what kept us going at that crux point since he recognized that it was time to switch gears and start scratching tight.

I actually launched a few minutes after Kris did that day December 28 2020, on my first ever flight on the westside. The base was only good, not spectacular. Add a check mark to the "Probably works more than we think" column. My flight log for the day reads "Failed first two inflations. Easy up on the third. Sharp thermals, active input required. Marcel to Makua, Kris to Kaneohe". Marcel's Makua roundtrip makes me think in hindsight that had someone been able to get up from Ka'ena, they could have pulled off the linkup.  Because Kris also made it on his first try, I believe that indicates the route likely is working pretty well much of the time when the flats look inviting. One advantage of the western approach is that you can get going from Nanakuli in the morning and hit the flats in the "dreamscape" part of the day. So often, the perfect paragliding sky either explodes in overdevelopment, or hits the inversion and spreads out into a thick grey ceiling after all the cumulus get swept into the powerful middle section of the island. The sea breeze peaks in mid afternoon, so a route that might be a cloud hopping delight earlier in the day could be plagued by wind and broken lift in the afternoon. Makapu'u generally isn't working early on the light days (or is it?) and it's a much longer trip to get established in the middle of the range at a good spot to huck over. The other advantage of crossing the Ko'olau from the west is that you have the luxury of finding the booming convergence lift before committing to the line. Going east to west requires more confidence in your onsite forecasting, a prospect that has deterred almost all suitors.

The best looking day I've ever seen for high altitude shenanigans was in the first week of February 2021, which I watched unfold from my job in town. There was a ridiculously high cloud street setting up slightly on the town side of the Ko'olau, extending into a neat intersection with the east-west convergence line. I did my best via text messaging to goad my buddies into lobbing over the back into that cloud street, but it's much easier to talk crap than it is to actually make the moves. It turned out to be a spectacular day on the range, but far from straightforward. A good percentage of the pilots were grounded before making it as far as Ahuimanu. Adam Fishbach had a banger of a day team flying with Austin Cox and Matt Senior from Manics to Kahuku, and I called him recently to get the breakdown of their day wearing my convergence-tinted glasses. He reported a playful start in light north flow that you would expect on a sea breeze day, noodling around doing laps out to sea from the lighthouse before heading downrange and getting the first big climb at Pu'u o Kona to four grand. They went on glide following the crest, finding modest bumps at the usual triggers until getting stuck low at the Likelike tunnels. They recovered and hooked into the booming thermal at Pu'u Keahi a Kahoe above the microwave relay station, and again boosting above four grand at 'Eleao. As they passed behind Waikane, Adam recalled Matty on the deeper line suddenly flicking into orbit and by the time Adam adjusted to join in, the door had closed and he was unable to get on the ride. This was just a bit north of where JK and I crossed the crest, and I'm not certain if this was related to the east-west convergence versus a more local effect. I asked Adam if he recalled spotting the convergence line between the ranges or if they contemplated going over the back, and he said that from their vantage point, visibility in that direction was limited by cloud and it wasn't the goal to link up to the westside, they were trying to nail up the entire length of the Ko'olau. I reviewed his excellent video from that day, and in the final phase of his flight after he has climbed back up from Sacred Falls you can see the convergence

line behind him over his left shoulder. In the far distance the east slopes of the Waianae range are already in shade, making me wonder how early of a start you would need to make it to that crux when the day is still powered up. 

No one has more miles in the O'ahu flatlands than Doug Hoffman, so I was stoked when he reached out after my flight with JK to share a ton of beta. He's gone over the back of both ranges plenty of times over the years, with minimum fuss. Last season I remember flying a nice day at the back of Punalu'u when I heard this call on radio: "This is Doug, I'm going over the back. On purpose." For the pilot with the appropriate skill set, the best strategy is simply to try it every chance you get. If the goal is to get all the way out to Ka'ena point, I see some advantages in his favored east-west route. Ka'ena is at the mercy of the sea breeze, so it could be a pretty tough spot to start. Even if you launch elsewhere on the west side and try to tag it and return, it would require exceptionally good conditions to get that segment done before tackling the convergence during the strong part of the day. By contrast if you are heading west at the end of the day, you could make the bird sanctuary on glide from a strong position high between Makaha and Makua. The major disadvantage of going east- west in my opinion is that you hit the flatland crux- benching up and over the Waianae range- later in the day when the slopes are shaded. In the mid afternoon it's also more likely to be torn up by the sea breeze. Perhaps some towing in Kunia could help us practice this crux?

As we continue to map out the interesting routes on the island, I think the greatest chance for improvement in our success is practicing structured team flying. At the risk of stating the obvious, it's relatively easy to make progress up and down a single range as a solo pilot because the triggers are in plain sight, on a straight line. If one isn't working, you keep going to the next, not exactly rocket science. The flats, in comparison, can be an easy place to bomb out and the multiplied search power of an organized team should help greatly. JK and I traded leads between Nanakuli and the Ko'olau which allowed the route to go. I think that's one of the major reasons that visiting pilots have good success coming over in the winter and sending big lines. They are out chasing it every single day, looking to go big as a group. By comparison, we locals are flying when we're off work, with whoever else happens to be motivated that day. One way around this conundrum is for enough of us to plan some big chunks of time off in the winter to start banging out some group attempts whenever the weather allows.

I've had a blast this winter flying all over the island with our motley crew. I'm still in the phase of my progression where hiking with friends learning about the weather constitutes a great day out. The chance of exploring new ground by air is just gravy heaped onto the fun pile. Thanks much to all the pilots who invite me along on their missions and share their knowledge. I'm learning a ton from the monkey pack, and these write-ups are my way of getting it all onto the record. If we cross paths in the sky, toss me your keys and we'll trade stories at the end of the day.

- Patrick


firedave2 said...

Patrick, That was an epic flight you and JK put in that day. You called it and then flew it. The fact that you put it down in words is even better so others can look at it and learn from your work for years.

Thom said...

Wow thanks.

JJJameson is smiling somewhere.

Amazing flight, great read.