Paragliders' prerogative


POSTED: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Question: I live across from Straub Hospital. At about 2 p.m. Sunday, May 24, right over Makiki where a lot of small planes and helicopters come from the airport, I saw three paragliders, not hang gliders, flying around. They were going in and out of the clouds. A small plane could have rammed into them. Is it permissible for paragliders to be flying over the city?

Answer: No law prohibits paragliders from launching themselves over the populated urban area, as long as they're not entering any controlled airspace (see “;Kokua Line,”; April 6, 2003).

There are many regulations “;that cover various aspects”; of where paragliders can go, “;but, pretty much, our understanding of it is that as long as we are careful about airspace concerns,”; paragliding is permitted, said Alex Colby, president of the Hawaii Paragliding Association.

In an area such as Tantalus/Makiki, “;we have to be aware of where the Class B airspace is,”; he said.

Very generally, Class B refers to the space around major airports in which commercial aircraft come and go.

On the association's Web site—www.windlines.net—it's explained that Class B airspace extends down to 1,000 feet over Diamond Head, with paragliders “;warned by the FAA to stay below that altitude there. Class B airspace also extends over Koko Crater at 4,000 feet,”; a height not scaled by many.

A further warning to paragliders: “;Also at all of our flying sites we share the air with numerous military aircraft, commercial tour aircraft and recreational aircraft of all shapes and sizes, and it's important to keep our eyes out for air traffic no matter where we are flying. One last point: as ultralight aircraft, we need to avoid flying over congested areas.”;

Over Makiki, paragliders would tend to launch from state-owned property, Colby said, but added that he hadn't heard any complaints about that for years.

“;Our approach is if we have complaints, then we will address them, and so far we haven't,”; he said. “;We've done a pretty good job of self-regulating in terms of making sure that people aren't trying (to fly in that area) who shouldn't be.”;

Paragliders would be attracted to Tantalus because of specific wind conditions, Colby said. Like surfers watching the waves, paragliders are always monitoring the weather.

“;So when we do fly (over Tantalus), it's generally noticeable and surprising to people, whereas the places that are flyable during ... our normal tradewind conditions, like Makapuu and Kahana (State Park), doesn't surprise anyone. But when you fly Tantalus on a rare Kona day, a super-light wind day, people say, 'What's that guy doing there?'”;

Tantalus is one of 12 flying sites highlighted on the association's Web site.

But, of flying there, it warns: “;This site is not recommended for any but the most experienced pilots, because the conditions are notoriously changeable and difficult to judge, and the only good landing option is back on top. Inadvertent landings in school fields and parks in town have all resulted in calls to security and police.”;

Colby said there are about 50 members of his association on Oahu, about half of them actively involved in paragliding. Of those active flyers, only about a dozen would be qualified to fly a site like Tantalus, he said.

The actual paragliding apparatus has no rigid parts, so is much lighter and flies slower than a hang glider. Pilots sit in a harness suspended below a canopy, steering by shifting their weight and applying brakes.

Auto warranty scam

There should be a lot fewer of those annoying and unwanted telemarketing calls about auto warranties (see archives.starbulletin.com/2008/03/24/news/kokualine.html and www.starbulletin.com/news/20090226_Unwanted_calls_on_car_warranty_are_investigated.html).

The Federal Trade Commission announced last month that a U.S. District Court judge had issued a temporary restraining order to stop the telemarketing company Voice Touch Inc., its partner Network Foundations LLC and their principals from making calls in violation of the Do Not Call Registry, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the FTC Act.

The FTC had charged the defendants with “;operating a massive telemarketing scheme that used random, pre-recorded phone calls to deceive consumers into thinking that their vehicle's warranty is about to expire.”;

For more information, check www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/05/robocalls2.shtm.

Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).