Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
April 7-14, 1997

It was soarable somewhere in the Sequatchie Valley every day this week. The appearance of this comet may have spelled gloom and doom to people at the dawn of civilization 4200 years ago, but this time around it's heralded high altitude gains and long durations for pilots across the region. I'm not really superstitious, but it makes me kind of wish I still had the old Comet II 165 I bought from Steve Lee and promptly crashed back in '88. Anybody getting really specked on one of those these days?

Kenny Sandifer and Ned Stelzel braved cold and strong winds to park a few hundred feet over the mountain for a couple of hours. Everybody else set their hopes for lighter velocities and warmer temps Tuesday.

Dale McCartney was already in the LZ after all the airtime he could stand when I drove through on the way to the top Tuesday afternoon. He reported altitude gains approaching 4000 over and "lift all over the place." It would have been a great XC day for anyone launching by early afternoon. As it was, I launched with over an hour of daylight left and just in time to fly with John Lawton and Curly Dunn before they headed out. Jeff Laughrey and I maintained a few hundred over in the smooth ridge lift. Thermals were obviously suppressed by an overcast developing in the late afternoon. Lift was still widespread, though very light, so I began to cross the valley wondering how far I'd get and made it to the high school without a turn. Thanks to John Lawton and Cindy Shell for the retrieval.

Wednesday sent everybody to Whitwell for altitude gains around 2000 over. Thursday and Friday were Henson's and Whitwell days respectively with no ridge lift but enough thermals to get most above the mountain. Phil and Ned landed in Mr. Castle's field after scratching around unsuccessfully south of launch. Bill launched a little later, turned left, and cored one out of the gas line cut just north of launch, so Phil returned to the top for a relaunch. I never heard how he got to Bill's truck parked at the church on the other end of town.

Sunday was blown out, even for Ned and Kenny, but the sky over Henson's is peppered with gliders as I race Monday's deadline again. Look for details next week, which will also bring the annual Tennessee Tree Toppers East Coast Challenge. If someone lands in your field, thanks for your hospitality and be sure to give them your name and number for entry in the friendly landowner prize drawing. Competitors, welcome to The Hang Gliding Capital of the East and hopefully continued spectacular spring flying in the beautiful Sequatchie skies.

The forecast calls for winds turning southerly Tuesday in advance of the next front. Temp differentials around 35 degrees suggest good convection. Best chance of precip, but still pretty low, with SW winds and a frontal passage Wednesday. Stronger NW winds and cooler temps by Wednesday or Thursday behind the front. Clouds and southerly winds begin to return Friday in advance of the next front, suggesting a chance of precip and the first round of the ECC at Southwest or Whitwell on Saturday. With an extra hour of daylight and all this soarable spring air, there's little excuse not to... See you in the sky!