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Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
April 30 - May 6, 1996

Spring does strange things to people. Hang-glider pilots gaze dreamily at deep-blue skies laced with cottony cumulus and have been known to travel far from home territories for the opportunity to reach them. Other species, however, typically stake out a territory and remain close, guarding it carefully while preoccupied with the business of having and raising offspring. Only rarely do these agendas conflict.

Last Tuesday was blown out for most of the day behind a frontal passage, but diminishing velocity opened the launch window a couple of hours before sunset. Jeff Laughrey, Kathy Lee, Robert Ponder, and I enjoyed smooth ridge lift in the westerly breeze. As winds continued to drop closer to sunset, Jeff moved farther south along the ridge to work a west facing "sweet spot" in the vicinity of Cordell's field, inadvertently provoking the wrath of a hawk claiming that airspace as its "turf".

As I had turned to follow Jeff, I could see the hawk flapping up through the ridge lift to get into strike position above and behind him. The bird's warning cries were clearly audible as Jeff pulled on speed and took evasive action. Satisfied that he'd been successfully discouraged from harming its young, the hawk dropped below the horizon and disappeared in the trees. Thinking I might work the lift in its neighborhood before it had time to ascend to my height, I warily ventured into controlled airspace. Scanning the trees below, movement higher in the visual field caught my attention. She (or he, as many raptors share responsibilities of parenthood) was flapping furiously on an intercept course, head on, closing fast, and staying just below the horizon to avoid detection. I turned around and stuffed the bar, but a look over my shoulder showed her having no trouble gaining with wings tucked. Just when I expected to hear talons against dacron I looked around to see her break off the attack and return to her station. Kathy Lee says they're hostile like that from the end of April through May, so keep your eyes open when you're scratchin' low on the ridge.

The remainder of the week was mostly SW. An unidentified New York pilot flew to the north end of the valley and back to Pikeville from the Southwest Site Friday. Phil Proctor, Matt Wagner, and Paul Donahue flew the Southwest Site Saturday but, according to Phil, never got very high. Still airtime, right?

Hang glider pilots in the area will probably be interested in attending the hearing for extension of an injunction to halt installation of a cellular tower close behind the Henson's Gap launch. Such location of this tower would, undoubtedly, represent a hazard to hang glider pilots, especially considering where we tend to be lowest. The hearing's scheduled for 9:00 AM, Thursday, May 9 at the Sequatchie County Courthouse.

A stalled front to our north brought rain Monday. As crests and troughs w,Ze across we'll have rain and cloudiness through Wednesday. Partly cloudy Thursday and Friday.

This just in!

Thanks to Bob Simmons for filling my information gap. Anybody got a clue about the mystery pilot from NY that flew to Pikeville, TN on Friday?

Bob says, FYI, a few other pilots also flew the SW site on Saturday, including yours truly (Bob Simmons), Dr. Craig Nunn, Nans Nyendyke (sp?) and Chris Farbolin. All of us are LMFP regulars and had never flown the SW site before. We love the peace and quiet (i.e., lack of wuffos) of Hensons and Whitwell. We assisted Phil Proctor, who was first to launch, and then Matt Wagner. Paul Mays and others assisted the rest of us off launch. You're right, none of us got very high. My vario told me 987 feet above launch with just a little over an hour of airtime. By then, the small ridge was crowded with about 8 gliders and time for me to leave. It was mildly rowdy, but fun.

Thanks again, Bob!

See you in the sky,

Dan Shell
Dunlap, TN