Saturday, 14 December 2013

Go fly a kite ! ( No, Really, SOARING on day 11)

I must admit that looking at the flying lawnmower circling over Kona, a tiny bit of fear of flying got mixed in with the excitement.  But I overcame that fear and sent an e-mail last night to Jefferey, the person flying those devices.  A reply is waiting in my inbox when  I wake up at 4 am (too excited ;-) this morning.  'Call me on my cell @ 555 FEA RNOT and be @ the airport at 9am.'
 I feel a little as if I'm going to meet a posse of men dressed in long coats at the OK Corral !

I'm at the airport at 8:20 am, and manage to snap a few pictures of the 'flying lawnmower' at first landing, then starting again and going overhead with another student.

At 8:45, Jefferey meets me at a wire-mesh gate of the grounds of KOA (Kona international airport), just 20 meters away from the ''aircraft'. The idea of leisurely sitting back and taking pictures during the flight dies right away. Nothing is allowed in my pockets or hands that could hit the propeller behind me. Then  for 5 minutes he starts explaining to me how to steer on the ground and in the air, how to gain and loose altitude, etc etc.  I start wondering why I need to know all this and get a slightly queasy feeling in my stomach.  Then we hope into the aircraft, he starts the engine, and tells me to use the foot pedals to taxi along the yellow line to runway
not my pic
A. Ah well, I can do that.  I have already forgotten his comment "You are going to fly this aircraft".  When I have taxied the thing into the right spot, he briefly takes over to take off in a manner that makes me grab the kite's triangular bar FIRMLY.  Not a good idea, because as soon as we are in the air, Jefferey lets go of all controls and tells me to apply everything he told me on the ground. WHAT?  R U CRAZY? DO YOU THINK I REMEMBER ANY OF WHAT U SAID?
Manta Ray (not my pic)
Summary:  He doesn't touch the handle bar or the gas pedals again for another hour. I'm FLYING the darned thing.  While at first every muscle cramps up and I just want to shout "YOU DO IT !", I actually seem to manage to steer the thing the way he tells me to go.  Once we are over the water (I am wearing a life vest ;-), things get even easier, because all this darned thermal turbulence (the land below heating up) suddenly stops. After 20 minutes it's like riding a bicycle and I even have time to look at the gorgeous land and seascape below.  At first I followed his finger pointing out the HUGE MANTA RAYS  in the BLUE water below us. Later I was so used to handle the lawnmower that I had time to look down at turquoise waves ending up as white foam on the black lava rocks and when I discovered a school of dolphins I could point them out to him.  Then he directs me to fly over land as we approach Captain Cook and Kealakekua Bay. Since i was there already last year I am prepared for what is coming. This is the view from the other side:
Not my pic
Imagine flying over land and then seeing the land drop away below you in an instant, flying over water clear enough to see every coral reef on the bottom.  This is followed by a 360 degree loop combined with a drop in altitude to 550 feet. WOW !!!!

Cumulus cloud (not my pic)
Approaching the airport which is sitting under a dark Cumulus cloud takes all the tiny bit of skill I have accumulated during the last hour.
 That cumulus cloud is a sign that the land below it is heating up quite a bit and is sending hot turbulent air upwards. And I'm flying through that turbulent air on a lawnmower ! 
Finally he takes over the controls for a quick landing, which was SCARY (You don't sit in a metal tube with windows high above the ground; You RAPIDLY approach the ground in a LAWN CHAIR !)
A bit more taxiing (My job again) and we're back to the hangar. When I get out of the aircraft, both arms and legs are WOBBLY !

Then it's time to take off my loaned gear: swim-vest, sweatshirt, and aviator glasses ;-)  Jefferey and a student are looking after refueling and checking bits and pieces, while I am still speechless. That was NICE !

If I wet anyone's appetite:  THE WEBSITE

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