Another Big Flight on the Ridge for Linwood Stevenson

Steve StevensonThank you for your kind words regarding my flight yesterday. I'm still trying to recover and it just isn't as easy as it once was. Kind of crashed after the adrenalin wore off (grin).

The route of flight declared was Lutrell - Scheer South - Tazewell Gap North - Sweet Springs Hotel - Lutrell, for a total declared distance of 1263.16Km. The idea was to go for the 1250km FAI diploma, and in the process maybe a National record or two, plus a few more TN records. Having only had the Discus 2B since the fall, also wanted to see how comfortable it was on a really long flight. Turns out, its tight, but seating was no issue.

Bob Davis was the tow pilot and back up official observer, and Kevin Anderson was the OO.

The flight originated out of the Knoxville Downtown Island Airport around 0940, after a slow assembly and loading about 25 gallons of water ballast. The tow was taken over to the end of the Clinch Ridge. The release was around 3500' or so and the start line was a point near Lutrell, TN.

Basically followed the Clinch northbound to Scheer South, 509km straight out along the ridge. The first 150km of the Clinch is really low, so one must have confidence in the wind forecasts and conditions encountered. Its not a place to just be hoping for good conditions. It was nice going at first, and was able to maintain around 80-100 knots while following the ridge a couple hundred feet up. That was OK, until encountering the bend in the ridge near Gate City, VA. Usually try to thermal over this area as its off the wind angle and really low, plus has no land out options at all. Zilch, none. nada. Well, thermal just wasn't working, but there was enough wind angle on the ridge to maintain around 65-70 knots until the ridge turned back to the NE again. Then things picked up again. Up near the Glade Springs VOR, an upwind jump and climb is required to the point where the ridge rises another 1500' or so. No problem thermaling upwind, ran the ridges and thermaled the few gaps to get to the Tazewell, VA. area. There the ridge becomes solid, and really fast. Was able to cruise at 100-110kts, which was as fast as I could go and stand to have my head bashed by the canopy when encountering the turbulence. Went fast to the Covington, VA, area, then had to thermal a few more gaps to to get to the northern part of the ridge, and then fast flying all the way to the Scheer South turn point.


Returning to Tazewell Gap North, no problems as was able to cruise really fast, as the ridges were cooking.

Only had to thermal gaps around Covington again. Thermals were amazing, averaging 8 knots plus, and in a few times got as strong as 15kts!

At Tazewell Gap, turned around north and headed for the Sweet Springs turn point south of Covington, VA.

Fastest speeds of the day, all the back north, hitting the turn point, and turning back south. That lasted to Tazewell Gap. First big gap. Wind had started to turn westerly and there are several large gaps which must be crossed to get back to the lower Clinch.

Coming over Tazewell, thermaled back up to run the gaps and only got back down on the ridge on the last high section before the Glade Springs VOR. The winds appeared to be weakening as I approached Gate City. At that point the ridge gets even lower and goes off angle. The GPS was showing the wind had died to just a few knots, so found a thermal and got up to around 6500' and by passed Gate City to the point the ridge turned back toward Knoxville. Thermals were starting to die, and I was slowing to survival mode, and keeping a good glide angle toward the landable areas east of the Clinch. The day was starting to die, and that dreaded sink sound from the vario just wouldn't go away. The wind was getting even less and I just knew the flight was about over. Then I happened to see a few ponds reflecting sunlight. They appeared to show a good surface wind right on the ridge. Hmmm. Well, drifted on down along the lower Clinch and the ridge started to come alive. There was a low level wind, with none higher. At that point was able to maintain enough height for a safe downwind bailout, and maintain 70-75 knots. All clouds had disappeared and the day was basically dead. This condition held up to the end of the ridge. Was able to cross the finish line and complete the task! Wow!! Oops, now gotta land. The House Mountain R/C Club has a small (500') strip near the end of the Clinch, so dropped in on them. This isn't the first time I've landed there, and they are always very glad to see a real sized aircraft on their short strip. Very smooth grass. Landed at 7:30PM, 45 minutes before official sunset. My crew was there to pick me up within 30 minutes. After feeding the crew, and getting home, putting the file on OLC, and letting the excitement wear off, finally got to bed around 0200.

Flight declared distance was 1263km. OLC distance was 1335km, minus the handicap. National records to be filed will be for both the Standard and 15 Meter Classes for 784.8 miles. The TN records haven't been figured out yet... Time on course was 9:28 and the flight total flight time was 9:50.


  5 comments for “Another Big Flight on the Ridge for Linwood Stevenson

    May 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Amazing. I hope one day I will be able to leave the same kind of testimony. Well actually I can leave one of the 200km I did yesterday :-). I feel so little after reading this. Congratulations Steve for this flight. I’m so proud of the fact that you gave me my introduction flight in the US.

  2. John Bergeson
    May 13, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    An outstanding flight! Well done!

  3. May 14, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Congrats and respect :)

  4. Joshua Fletcher
    May 14, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Excellent…. Congratulations!

  5. Bill Evelyn
    May 14, 2013 at 6:38 am


    Way to go.

Comments are closed.