Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
May 18, 1998

Spring always brings hang glider pilots from all over, the reunion of old friends, and the introduction of new ones. This week the Tennessee Tree Toppers were pleased to entertain an entourage of members from Miami. Miami Hang Gliding sponsored what's become an annual bash during their annual trip with entertainment including Indian drumming and belly dancing. The Tree Toppers were honored with a visit from Bill Bennett, a hang gliding legend. He is credited with important work on the triangular control frame and towing technologies which accelerated the growth of the sport in Australia and the U.S. in the '70s. With all this company there's been considerable aerial action, but first we have a story to finish.

When we left them last Monday (5/11) Kathy Lee was in position at Big Daddy's near Haletown on I-24 eyeing the next field on the way to Lookout. She worked there waiting for the thermal to take her over but eventually landed at Big Daddy's. Phil Proctor, Jeff Laughrey, and Dale McCartney went over the back there to land at Lookout Mountain Flight Park near Trenton, Georgia. Phil flew again on Tuesday, reporting a duration of an hour and forty-five minutes boating around launch. Direction and velocity weren't ideal for the remainder of the week, but convection allowed for good thermal flights. Saturday was ridge soarable with a NW wind and a thick haze from agricultural fires in Mexico. The poor visibility didn't keep many down. James Anderson and Buddy Cutts of Montgomery, Alabama reported a couple of hours in sweet, smooth air. Steve Lee reported a max altitude gain of around 1500 over.

A north breeze in the night cleared the air and Sunday dawned beautiful. The forecast was N but the direction was clearly NE by mid day with strong velocity in the valley. Launch lizards listened nervously to the sound of new leaves rattling fiercely and imagined themselves subject to the same forces. Pilots swinging in their control frames as they raced by to the south and crawled by to the north indicated turbulence and a nasty cross. When I called Katie Dunn to inquire of conditions, she responded "Uhgh, Can't talk now!". Lots of folks waited for something lighter or smoother. I launched about 3:30 and climbed to around 500 over in rowdy air on the north face. An hour in this was sufficient work out for me, but pilots who hung out or waited to launch got the best air of the day a couple of hours before sunset. Phil said he flew the sailplane Sunday and reported the plateau over the west side of the valley working much better. All you need 's a tow.

On Monday, 5/18 Phil and Bill Colvin flew from Henson's to Pitts Gap and back, reporting a max altitude gain of 4800 over. Buzz Chalmers reported a max altitude gain of 5500 over at Bucks Knob. Jeff Laughrey and John Lawton also skied.

The forecast calls for a stalled front to our north to bring SW winds by Wednesday. Warm temps until late week. Best chance of thunderstorms associated with the front late Wednesday or Thursday. Frontal passage, cooler temps, and northerly breezes by Friday or Saturday. See you in the sky!