Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
March 24, 1997

There's just nothing quite like spring air. Thermals rip through the tree tops like freight trains, intimidating pilots waiting for the "light" cycle to get off and snatching the bars out of white knuckles and sweaty palms already aloft.

Saturday shaped up like the proverbial good day. Postfrontal and clear, many pilots took their chances with the forecast high velocity and gathered at Henson's in hopes that it wouldn't actually be blown out. The early birds were rewarded as velocity mellowed around midafternoon and allowed a good sized gaggle off. While turbulence would be expected on this kind of day at this time of year, Ned Stelzel was apparently undaunted as he was seen wangin' around over launch. John Lawton and Kenny Sandifer also took advantage of the strong air, reportedly not too bad once away from the hill. Several of us were left to watch sunset from the top, however, as an afternoon of waiting produced no more substantial light cycles.

Sunday was forecast lighter but still northerly, so some pilots just left 'em set up overnight with hopes for tomorrow. Paul Donahue launched first a little after noon and scratched in light lift before going to the field. A few more pilots did little better than sled runs before it turned on a little before 2:00. Steve Lee launched around 2:00 and reported a max altitude gain of 4200 over on his way down the valley. Curly Dunn also got high enough to go for it, but sink was abundant too and he went down a little past Centerpoint. Jeff Laughrey, thinking he had distance for the day, expressed his frustration colorfully on seeing Kathy Lee pass by overhead. She ultimately made it to Marion County Airport. Several other pilots flew for hours, but it wasn't an easy day. Plentiful sink, numerous flushes, and a bonehead decision or two (namely mine) put several pilots on the ground before they were ready. It was great fun anyway. You should've seen my moonwalk landing!

The forecast calls for a good chance of precip Tuesday continuing into early Wednesday. Postfrontal, clearing, northerly, and strong Wednesday afternoon. N veering toward E through Thursday. E to SE Friday with high clouds moving in. SE to SW Saturday. If the fronts keep the clip they've had, it could be NW again by Sunday. See you in the sky!