Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
October 5, 1998

The harvest moon and plenty of pumpkins from Pikeville signal competition time in The Hang Gliding Capital of the East. The Tennessee Tree Toppers Team Challenge is already under way with four teams achieving one valid round as of Monday. In this meet competitors are classified by experience and less experienced pilots are awarded more points for the same distance, providing a strong incentive for other team members to assist them along course.

Monday was forecast south so the field went to Whitwell. The day looked foreboding early with not much hint of improvement in the forecast, so New York pilots Rick Arndt and Doug Mossbrook checked out of their motel and cruised for better weather at The Wallaby Ranch (hang gliding flight park) near Orlando, Florida. Stopping by the Whitwell launch on their way south just to check, they found clearing skies with hang gliders in them. They revised their itinerary, flew the task, and made goal at the intersection of highways 111, 8, and 127 north of Dunlap, helping put their team in first place. Alabama XC record holder David Giles of Huntsville also made goal. Ray Helman of Huntsville and Buddy Cutts of Montgomery made the minimum five mile scoring distance and placed second and third among class C pilots for the day. They call their team from New York and Alabama "The Blue and the Gray" and they scored 425 points Monday.

The closest thing to a local team this year is represented by what would be more accurately described as a Lookout contingent. Terry Presley was the only member to make goal, but Ron Knight wasn't far behind. In fact, observers at goal said it looked like he had it made before stopping to work something that turned into sink. Anyway, he declined squeaking over power lines and opted for the safe landing at the hospital, where he was able to arrange a ride back to Whitwell with touring French paraglider pilot Pierre, who just happened by. Other members of their team are Todd Guiton, Jean Carmichael, and Judy Hildebrand and they were in second place with 337 points.

More uniformly Yankee, the New England Airheads were in third place with 241 points. Todd Smith made goal. Other members are Gary Trudeau, Steven Repost, Tom Lanning, and Greg Hanlon. The Sky Studs from the DC area are Mark Gardner, Doug Wakefield, Steve Kritchen, Larry Ball, and Shelia Boyle were in fourth place with 208 points. Mark made goal.

The forecast calls for southerly flow in advance of a slow moving cold front, bringing warm temps and high humidity through midweek. Lows in the mid 60s, highs in the lower 80s. Southerly winds through the period. Prefrontal and SW Wednesday. Best chance of rain or thunderstorms Thursday. Clearing, postfrontal, and northerly Friday. Good convection before high pressure builds in with lows in the lower 50s and highs in the mid 70s. N to NE Saturday. See you in the sky!