Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
August 30, 1999

With consistent frontal passages it appears the summer doldrums have been chased away for good. However, the fronts have been pretty dry, bringing scattered thunderstorms at best. Conditions for convection, therefore, remain excellent and cloudbase has been reported approaching 5000 over. With the Lee Team racking up five trips to Lookout in two weeks, it's evident the autumn XC season is upon us.

I'd about decided to take it easy Thursday afternoon to rest up for my typical 16 to 20 hour Fall Friday work day when I made the mistake of turning on my radio. Steve answered he was low over Cordell's but Kathy was over the first gap and skyed. It sounded like they were going for it so I offered to drive for them if they'd call the house when they landed. But a few more minutes of listening to "3000 over and climbing fast in a big fat thermal" and "Cloudbase at 4600 over!" had me packing gear. John Lawton and Doc Smith were just landing as I pulled through the LZ. John offered his launch crew services when he returned to the top, so I ascended the mountain to setup with Susan Murdoch.

We launched into a smooth and steady wonder wind. I tried working the occasional embedded thermals for sufficient altitude to reestablish radio contact with the Lees, but could only get around 800 over and that wasn't enough. Susan and I orbited launch for about an hour when I headed out first, thinking I'd put it down and get out of her way. Susan then proceeded to the 111 overlook to wang down quickly over the heads of the spectators. Lazily min-sinking over the field, I noticed her next as she crossed the power lines low entering the east corner of the LZ. She did have enough room for her turn onto final.

In the meantime, the Lees had made it to Lookout again. This was only the latest trip in what's become a rash. Last week it was reported that Steve had misdirected his retrieve after landing on Sand Mountain, but it's better than that. It only took him a second to realize he was actually landing near Slygo Road on Sand Mountain and not Thrasher Pike in Soddy-Daisy, but in that second his radio went dead. From then on to the ground he was switching off his radio for a minute or two (hoping to get a second of transmission time on power up), switching on, and reciting hurriedly only "Slygo Road! Slygo Road!", hoping his driver would understand. He didn't. On this past Thursday's adventure they both made it into the Lookout LZ. Thanks to Larry Snyder for bringing them home.

Larry was a hang gliding hero again Sunday, but this time he had a flying role. Lori Allen sends this report:

I didn't start out so great -- sank below ridge level when everyone was getting up and I was thinking, "Not again!" when I caught a few turbulent burbles and managed to fight my way back up above the ridge (whew). Then I caught a sweety that took me up to about 3,000 and started to drift down the valley. At one point I started to sink out and was spying out fields to land when I saw Larry Snyder (who earned hero status today), ahead of me, above me and circling. I yanked on my VG and stuffed the bar to see if I could get to him and it paid off, back up to 3,000 over but basically working thermals over the valley and letting the NE winds carry me down further and further. As the fields started to look smaller and the Tennessee River started to look bigger, I got a little insecure and decided to land in this really nice field below me. After a landing in turbulent air (can you say whack?), but no problems with the body or the glider, I carried the glider over to the side and tried to figure out where I was.

Soon thereafter my hero, Larry Snyder, whom I had lost earlier, landed in the same field. He had Marion County airport made, but turned around bucking the headwind flew 4 miles back to join me. What a nice guy! Luckily he had his GPS so I was excited to find out I had flown 21.2 miles, which is my best XC to date (this may be horsefeathers for some but for me this is fantastic).

Bob Simmons landed across the valley near Highway 28 for an easy retrieval by Rodger Ling and Bill Colvin came and rescued Larry and me. Frank Ciminissi made Dr. Dale McCartney's field a little further back toward Henson's. (James Anderson and Steve Lunn soared around launch.) Buzz Chalmers, in usual fashion, simply skyed out. Greg Heckman flew all the way back to Lookout. Congratulations to Greg!

The Lees didn't fly at all Sunday. I heard they were resting up from flying to Lookout on Saturday. With the combination of technology and spectacular weather this has become a regular enough event that pilots are actually conspiring to attempt an en masse aerial gate crashing of the party at Lookout from Henson's this Saturday. Predicting a declared goal cross country hang gliding flight for a particular day in the east is a marginally absurd notion, but the odds are better than even we'll have a lot of fun trying. The forecast calls for NE winds early in the week. Lows in the low to mid 60s and highs in the low to mid 80s through the week. The coolest day will be Wednesday with continued northerly flow. This makes almost a week of northerly winds! Prefrontal by the weekend, suggesting a southerly change in wind direction. See you in the sky!

Mystery Pilot's Report

This was submitted by somebody via email but the story got detached from any information about the author. If you know who's recounting these heroic deeds, please clue us in.

I was flying with David trying to catch up at the Jack Gap power lines. He was 1000 ' above me and a bit in front of me. Well, that was the last I saw of him. Greg Wojnowski had landed at Dr. Dale's and as I passed by there he told me David had been long gone. I told him I was in no hurry and wanted to milk the lift to keep from getting low and possibly sinking out.

I stayed pretty high until Ketner's Mill road where I got down to 800 feet above launch and starting to worry. I worked some light stuff until it turned on and finally took me to 4100' or so above , into the cloud and whited out, popping out the West end of the cloud just before the last knob in the valley. That was my favorite thermal of the day.

At this point I started gliding towards the river and over the edge of the big peninsula. As I aproached Haletown I hit some sink below a dark cloud. But, when I got directly over Haletown I hit some lift and climbed back to cloudbase.

I glided all the way to the fields on top of the Sand Mtn at Sliegle exit with only a cuple zero sink beeps and hung out to milk a light one there with not quite enough glide to get to I-59 comfortably. As I milked a small cloud started to form and as I climbed I had Greg W catching up from Big Daddy's in his vehicle. I asked him to pick up some gatoraide on his way as I had cotton mouth something terrible.

As I looked toward Lookout I saw no clouds and nothing but haze. So I stayed in top of the Sand Mountain plateau and worked my way along the East edge slowly milking some tiny clouds. I knew that if I glided out It would be final as no clouds we to the Southwest either. Well patience paid off as I slowly drifted and milked small puffy stuff all the way to Ider, Alabama right at the Breakers (Beakers) Crossroads. As I aproached the intersection I saw only high corn and conjestion ahead. So I took a right turn toward the church and cemetary field where I saw a wind sock and had Greg scouting. Turns out there was a Rescue squad right across the street.

Greg pulled out the GPS and marked exactly 49 miles from Henson's launch. Not bad for a day of milking. Thanks Greg for the ride and the Gatoraide! After packing up we met Kathy, Steve, Tom and Kenny at Lookout LZ for some pizza and beer.

Tom Prouhet landed on Sand Mountian near New Hope Road after I had milked the cow dry. Kenny was also driving.