Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
June 30, 1997

Some of the excitement in the Sequatchie skies this week was unrelated to hang gliding. When I drove by the King Air twin turbo prop parked on the side of Highway 28 just south of town Monday, I thought it was a lucky emergency landing. When I stopped, Hank Hughes told me that the folks from Precision Parachutes were testing tandem parachutes and employing that stretch of road for runway.

After loading the quarter ton dummy weight and other interminable preparations in the hot sun to make sure everything was just right, the Sheriff's Department stopped traffic and the plane rolled south down the highway, accelerating to takeoff. Banking left before Fletcher's Trucking, the pilot avoided flying directly over traffic parked at the other end and began to set up an approach to the test area by flying almost to Whitwell, turning around, and flying a long straight line back to the drop zone. Carson Camp offered Hank and I a little relief from the heat in the air-conditioned comfort of his truck for the short ride to the test area.

The first try was aborted because of communications problems, but visual signals were used in the second run and the load was released 300 feet over the field at 180 knots. The parachute opened explosively with a sound like muffled thunder and the dummy settled gently to the dirt. Pretty good for a free airshow.

It was light over the back at Henson's Monday, but Nick Berry, Katie Dunn, and Kathy Lee flew anyway. Nick and Kathy went to the field, but Katie jumped in with some birds to snag a thermal out front and climb back to a grand over, giving her about a half hour flight. Tuesday looked great at Whitwell but by the time Dave Curry, Linda Presley, Terry Presley, and I had set up it appeared to be shutting down. Linda got off with a little breeze left and managed to work light lift to just above the ridge for a few minutes. Terry searched south around the corner but found nothing and landed at Castle's. Dave splashed down in a marshy area of the same field. Linda had a good landing at the church but I fell prey to the high grass and an early flare.

The forecast calls for chance of rain declining through midweek. The closest thing to a defined front appears to arrive Tuesday PM, suggesting W Tuesday going more northerly Wednesday. Don't expect strong winds or convection with lows in the mid to upper 60s and highs in the mid to upper 80s for a temperature differential of twenty degrees or less through the week. Fair on the fourth and if the rain takes a break this week so things can dry out a little, maybe we'll... See you in the sky!