Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
September 14, 1998

We've gone about a month without any substantial precip. The drought will no doubt give us a crackin' fall, but I think most pilots would rather see the rain. The view's just nicer when everything's greener, but we must also be sensitive to the plight of the farmers whose occupation and hospitality provide so many huge fields for landing, contributing to Dunlap's distinction as The Hang Gliding Capital of the East.

With little moisture to suppress convection, high altitudes and long flights have been common lately. Kenny Sandifer reported a career high altitude gain around 7200 over at cloudbase with Curly Dunn and several others. Terry Presley flew from Lookout Mountain Flight Park near Trenton, Georgia to the Henson's LZ on two consecutive days last weekend (9/5,6). Bob Simmons made the trip with him on Sunday while Steve and Kathy Lee flew from Henson's the other way to Dale McCartney's airstrip.

Todd Guiton's been practicing for the upcoming TTT Team Challenge and reports some pretty decent training conditions: The Sequatchie has been good to me of late. In addition to the XC to Lookout a couple of weeks ago, I have had two 20 mile flights to the south side of the valley just south of the Guns & Stuff shop off of 27. Landed in the same field twice as I had launched late and the thermals had gotten small and light to take me over to Lookout Valley. Great LZ there with no cattle or corn and the folks at the gun shop were very hospitable.

I made it to Lookout with only one low point of 50' below launch just above Powell's Crossroads and from there, the rest of the trip was made with no less than 2,000 over launch. The other trips from Henson's have recently found the lift much lower as the high pressure has been sitting over the area for so long. Lift was only to about 2,800' or so on the other 2 trips down the Sequatchie Valley. I didn't feel I had enough to jump over Sand Mountain so I waited and waited at the ridge just west of the quarry off of 27 for something to come along. After spending up to 30 minutes on light ridge lift I headed out to land at the clear field there.

Made one 16 mile flight from Lookout chasing Terry Presley and being chased by a large blue hole of sink. As each thermal died out, I'd dive north to the next one and climb it until it dissipated and finally was forced down at the T&L Chick Ranch. Had a great landing there at the ranch and Judy Hildebrand was shortly along with Terry from the Henson's LZ. Perfect day.

I flew Whitwell on Monday, 9/14 and there was very strong lift along with equally strong sink. Got to 1,800' over the launch and had 50 minutes before deciding that I couldn't go anywhere and my ride was waiting at the church LZ so flew out there and landed among the round bales that are scattered through the field. Very interesting obstacle course but no problem to avoid them. --Thanks for the great report, Todd!

John Lawton reported more excellent flying this past Saturday (9/12) with Curly and Katie Dunn, Dennis Felts, Mark Furst, Rick Gattone, Judy Hildebrand, Tom Prouhet, and Charlie Yowell. John reported a max altitude gain of 3000 over but said Judy got the highest at around 3900 over. Launches began late after 4:00 into punchy lift in weak multiple cores. Everybody got down and scratched for a low save to fly for a couple of hours. Tom didn't hit his low thermal though and reached the field a little earlier. John crossed the valley four times, climbing out on the Henson's side, gliding over, then "comin' back kickin' treetops". Clark Harlow flew to Buck's Knob, Anderson Gap, then looped his way into the LZ.

The forecast calls for high pressure to remain in control through at least midweek, meaning continued hot days and mild nights with generally southerly winds. Lows in the mid 60s, highs in the mid 80s. Chance of thunderstorms Friday associated with frontal passage. NW winds behind the front Friday or Saturday. N to E and clear Sunday. See you in the sky!