Monday, May 30, 2022

Wave Flight

Next up here's a look at Wave Flight, a sculpture in the overseas terminal of the Honolulu Airport (and I'd love to say these were recent photos, but it's been a while since I've made it over there). This was created in 1984 by local artist Donald Harvey. The Public Art Archive description doesn't say much about it specifically and is more of a bio:

A longtime Hawaii resident, Donald Harvey prefers to sculpt in clay, wood, resin and fiberglass. He graduated from Kailua High School, attended Utah State University as an undergraduate, and received his Masters in Fine Arts and professional teaching diploma from the University of Hawaii. Immediately upon obtaining his Masters degree, Mr. Harvey became an art teacher at Kamehameha Schools, then worked his way up to becoming Chair of the Kamehameha Schools Art Department. He also serves as a guest lecturer in art at the University of Hawaii, while taking continuing education courses at Hickam Air Force Base. He has works in numerous public and private collections that have included the Contemporary Art Center and the Honolulu Academy of Arts. In addition, he has been commissioned for large structures that appear at Honolulu Community College and the Honolulu International Airport.

Befitting the location, the name is an aeronautical reference. Under certain conditions, standing atmospheric waves called "lee waves" can form downwind of terrain, typically a high mountain range (like the mountains on the Big Island) or a plateau. Skilled glider pilots can ride these waves upward to achieve very high altitudes and long distances. To give a sense of why wave flying is an advanced skill, here's a firsthand account of what it's like, a YouTube lecture on how it works, and a report on a 2008 Big Island glider crash during an altitude record attempt. The pilot had made it up to over 38,000 feet before his plane came apart. As of mid-2022 the current altitude record stands at nearly twice that height at over 76,000 feet, in the ballpark of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. The project team behind that record flies out of the far end of Patagonia during the winter, and are aiming for 90,000 feet with their current plane, and 100,000 feet with an advanced glider still in the design phase. At those altitudes, aerodynamics are similar to near the surface of Mars, so this is supposed to be a faster and cheaper way to learn more about flying there. Although NASA managed to send a helicopter to Mars without doing this step first, so who knows.

The term was also used by a 2019 Alaska Airlines promotion, partnering with a surfing website to offer last-minute deals when the surf's up. Which is an exceptionally niche play on words, you gotta respect that.

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