The wind turned southerly early this week, but only after blowing northerly for at least two and a half weeks. Several different meteorological features and coincidences maintained the direction. At one point it was our position on the western side of the counterclockwise rotation of Hurricane Dennis as it moved up the Atlantic coast. The spell was finally broken by a front that reached us before the next hurricane climbed the coast, but not before several pilots were able to wring a few more great flights out of this awesome late summer XC season.
Bill Colvin made his first trip from Henson's to Lookout (Trenton, Georgia) last Saturday, 9/4 with Steve and Kathy Lee, who I think have flown over there half a dozen times this month. Steve and Kathy reported max altitude gains between 8200 and 8500 over. Steve said it was a no stress cross country, as they were getting great drift with those altitudes and stayed at cloudbase the whole way. Bob Simmons landed in Wildwood, just north of the Lookout LZ, and Tom Prouhet landed in Ned Smith's field, only a few hundred yards to the south of the LZ. Tucker Weir, on his first attempt, would have made the LZ easily if he'd known where it was. Instead, he reached Lookout Mountain in the vicinity of Covenant College and figured he'd better land on top if he wanted anybody to believe he'd been there. The largest field he could find was the Covenant College baseball diamond, so he slid to a safe landing between second and third base.
Several pilots considered Sunday, 9/5 marginally blown out. Sometimes the record breaking XC conditions don't look like all that much fun to fly in. While some decided to break down on top, Greg Heckman flew to Lookout and Dave Giles flew 68 miles to Fort Payne, Alabama. There were also reports of good XCs from Lookout by Bob Simmons, Jack Zorn, and Rick Gattone. The velocity settled down late and several pilots enjoyed the late afternoon ridge soaring. Kevin Gross sends this report from down the valley: Some good flying was going on south of the border Sunday, 9/5. I got about an hour at eagles' nest, my WNW site on Sand Mountain, approximately 63 miles to the left (SW) of Henson's launch. It was a late afternooner and the 7500' bases were already dissipating. The lift was a combination of thermal, ridge, and wonder, and the sunset on the Guntersville Lake was spectacular. Thanks, Kevin!
Steve and Kathy Lee made it to Lookout again on Monday, 9/6, but didn't stop there. They joined up with Lookout pilots already in the air and continued on to Rome, Georgia. Steve landed at the Rome airport with Greg Westbury, who'd launched at Lookout. Kathy landed closeby in Subligna, Georgia with Bob Simmons and Dean Funk. Terry Presley was out front and able to navigate around an area of rain and sink to fly from Lookout to just short of Carrollton, Georgia for an 81 mile XC. Steve gave Lori Allen high praise for her excellent hang driving. She had them all retrieved within minutes of bagging their gliders and back to the Lookout LZ not long after dark. That would have been a convenient end to a great XC day if Greg Wojnowski, who'd gone off his own way, hadn't called in just then whining for a retrieve. His wife wouldn't even go get him so Steve and Kathy started the trek back to Centre, Alabama to bring him home. By that time nobody was interested in hearing his story, but it turns out he had one of the best distances of the day.
John Lawton sends this report on Sunday, 9/12: Steve Lee, Mark Furst, and I flew Whitwell and went XC. Mark landed near the Vo-Tech center and Steve and I went to just short of Crossville (about 58-60 miles we figure). The cool thing was we all took different lines down the valley. Steve pretty much stayed on the Whitwell side of the valley and I pretty much flew down the middle to over East Valley Road until about Pikeville with Mark following me. I crossed back over and continued on to the end of the valley where I met back up with Steve and we got about 5200' over and went on a final glide for Crossville. Very strong lift at times, sometimes around 1500fpm. Max altitude gain was about 5500' over. It was a HOOT! Thanks, John!
The forecast calls for postfrontal conditions through the week bringing clear skies and cooler temps. Lows will be in the mid to upper 50s Wednesday with highs in the mid 70s. By Friday lows will be in the lower 50s with highs around 70. Continued northerly flow between Floyd to our east and a jet stream trough to our west will probably keep it dry. Unless strong high pressure builds in behind the front, good convection should continue until the monsoons. See you in the sky!