Behind the lines of thunderstorms that march up the valley about once a week this time of year is cooler air, northwest winds, and perhaps a quiet conveyance to the clouds over Henson's Gap. A few days later, however, as the pattern shifts from postfrontal to prefrontal with typical springtime energy, the hope of a southeasterly breeze with a convective kick sends pilots across and down the valley to the TTT Whitwell launch. There were a few of those days this week.
There's a rumor that a pilot named Tim went in the trees off launch at Whitwell on Monday. If you know this pilot, please have him contact the TTT BOD regarding accident report filing. Steve Lee launched there Tuesday and found enough lift to get him all the way to the Skyline Coal loadout facility south of Dunlap. He was eyeing a landing approach there when he encountered a last minute thermal that got him out and on his way. He eventually landed near Pikeville. Mark Furst and Susan Murdoch took a tandem flight and Mark reported sufficient sink to worry him about making Mr. Castle's field, significantly closer than the church. Steve was the hero again on Saturday, flying from Whitwell to George Galloway's airstrip south of Dunlap. Mark Furst and Kathy Lee got to the huge field in front of Star Gap near Cartwright. John Lawton watched Jeff Laughrey fly through a thermal immediately off launch, dove into it, and grabbed a thirty minute ride. Jeff landed. Jim Watson also got a sled run.
Sunday was forecast SE 5-15, so Matt Wagner went to Whitwell. Everybody else saw diminishing velocity and decided to sit tight at Henson's and watch it. Sure enough, the velocity eventually dropped to calm. Warming air sliding up the mountainside even tilted the telltales from the west occasionally. Mark Furst found lift while others found the field and climbed to cloudbase at 3200 over during a two and a half hour flight. Mark said one of the most exciting parts of the flight was working light lift deep in the gap and low. He reported scratching even with the bluff over the road where 111 begins its descent. He had landing options, but preferred to climb out instead. Steve reported a max altitude gain of around 3100 over. Matt Wagner won flight of the day when he ended his flight from Whitwell in the Henson's LZ.
The forecast calls for the best chance of rain this week on Tuesday. Postfrontal, clear, and NW Wednesday. Highs in the upper 70s, lows in the mid 50s. High pressure continues to build in for the remainder of the week. Northerly to easterly on Thursday. Highs in the upper 70s, lows in the lower 50s. East to south Friday. Highs in the upper 70s, lows in the mid 50s. No precip in sight, but when the wind goes SW the front's probably only a day or two away. See you in the sky!