Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Island Hopping in Hawaii (Part 1)

As many of you know, I have been trying to personally land in all 50 states...

After 2 years of flying to every nook and cranny of the continental US and Alaska, this weekend I finally managed to check Hawaii off my list!

The first 49 states were all done in my Cirrus.  However, it just wasn't practical to fly my plane to Hawaii.    So a few months ago, I started to plan this trip.  I was fully expecting to rent a plane there.  However, I was struggling to find a suitable plane that I would be comfortable enough in for this mission.  Then around December, as a direct result of this blog, I met a fellow Cirrus pilot that had a nearly identical plane to mine based on Maui!  Problem solved!!

The owner was not only a Cirrus pilot, but was also a Cirrus Instructor (CSIP), which really came in handy for this excursion.  (You will understand why shortly)...

When I arrived in Maui, I felt a huge sense of comfort and familiarity when I saw his plane:
N779LB is a 2007 SR22 G3 GTS, that is very similar to my plane.  So the flying part was familiar.  However, this plane was equipped with different avionics.  Since my mission was more about the flying and landing, I let Laurence handle the radios/avionics and I simply did all of the flying by hand.  Absolutely no autopilot... Just old fashioned stick and rudder flying.

But this was a lot more challenging than I expected.  The weather in Hawaii is VFR ~360 days a year.  However, EVERY day seems to involve dodging clouds, rain, terrain and some very unpredictable winds!

On the first day, we took off from Kahalui airport on Maui and went to the neighboring island of Lanai.  The views were spectacular (but somewhat distracting).  This is what I saw out the window while flying on the "right base":

Then when I was on final ~ 75 FT AGL, the wind shifted from a tame 5 KT headwind to ~ 15 KT crosswind!  While it caught me by surprise, Laurence calmly stated "Happens here all the time - You get used to it..."

I thought that was intense... But that was just a warm up for the next island, which was Molokai.  Here we landed on a tiny strip of pavement, called Kalaupapa, that had the Pacific Ocean just 20 FT off of the departure end of the runway.  The airport had no PAPI lights, no precision glideslope, and none of the normal "crutches" that help me land.  Instead, I had to look out the window and "feel my way" to the runway while fighting a 40KT headwind.  In addition, the runway had ocean waves very close to the edge of the runway.  Being from Florida, I am comfortable flying around water.  But seeing waves like this on approach was a totally new experience!

After a quick photo stop, and an "elegant hot start" by Laurence, we were off to return to home base @ Maui, where we landed in winds of 15, gusting to 24!

Overall, day 1 was only 1.5 on Hobbs... But with the monster winds and using NO autopilot, it felt like quite a workout!

You can see a quick recap of the first days flight below:

As you can imagine, I also got a ton of amazing pictures... Just haven't had time time to download and sort through them yet.  That's why this is only "part 1"

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