Tullahoma, Tenn GTA Race

Gliders on the ramp at Tullahoma, Tenn

Gliders on the ramp at Tullahoma, Tenn

Ted Beckwith preflighing the Eagleville towplane

Ted Beckwith preflighing the Eagleville towplane

Tullahoma GTA race guest pilot

Tullahoma GTA race guest pilot

I'm sitting in my Micro-Castle here at the Tullahoma GTA (Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama) race site, on Saturday July 5, waiting for my brain to wake up and smell the coffee.  Tullahoma regional airport (KTHA) is a great soaring site, with lots of ramp space for assembling gliders, huge runways with at least two separate grass runways, and a reasonably benign soaring area with lots of airports and agricultural fields.

The GTA race series is amazing in its own right, because it is a very vibrant organization, with no physical presence at all.  Everything is done 'virtually', except for the flying itself.  Scoring is done by email, weather may be called in by someone else or done on site, CD'ing is usually handled by one of the competitors (in this case by Francois Pin), and even the schedule and location may be changed dynamically to adjust to particularly good or poor weather forecasts.  A typical race is attended by 4-6 pilots, and the typical pilot competes in 2-4 GTA races per season.  Scores are posted on the GTA website, and everyone 'competes' for end-of-year standings based on the best X scores, where X is about 6.  Anyone can be a GTA member (they even let me in!).  The whole idea, as I understand it, is to provide a venue where pilots can 'race' in an informal, non-threatening environment, with lots of support given to newer pilots.  All races are dry, and there are only two classes - 'A' (more experienced) and 'B' (less experienced), and tasking is intended to be challenging, but not excessive. This is a great way for pilots new to XC racing to learn, and it's a fun way for the more experienced pilots to get a weekend XC racing fix on the cheap, and to help other pilots at the same time.

This particular GTA race is being hosted by Leo Benetti-Longhini, the North American JS1 and Silent dealer/rep, and an all-round nice guy to boot.  He is an engineer involved in wind-tunnel design here in Tullahoma, and he shares a hangar with the local skydiving outfit.  When I arrived yesterday, Leo was putting the finishing touches on a brand-new jet-sustainer glider recently purchased by Dave Coggins (DT) out of Houston, TX.  This is an absolutely spectacularly beautiful glider, and the jet sustainer is, in itself, a work of technological art. Dave flew with us yesterday, and I had the pleasure of sharing a couple of thermals with him - nice looking glider!

Dave Coggins (DT) with his brand-new jet sustainer JS-1.  That's Leo in the background working on the Silent that Francois Pin will be flying in the Sports Class Nationals.

Dave Coggins (DT) with his brand-new jet sustainer JS-1. That's Leo in the background working on the Silent that Francois Pin will be flying in the Sports Class Nationals.

Francois Pin didn't fly with us yesterday, as he decided to forego soaring in order to watch the world cup matches between France and Germany and between Brazil and Columbia.  Sadly he reported that not only did both the teams he was rooting for (France and Columbia) lose, but that the games themselves weren't all that interesting.  Sorry, Charlie! ;-)

Dinner last night was hosted in the hangar shared by Leo and the local skydiving operation - everybody simply threw $10 into a pot, and one of the skydivers cooked up a great hotdog/hamburger dinner.  Tonight's dinner will be barbeque brisket and chicken, same place, same time, same financial arrangements.

Today's weather looks promising.  The winds are lower so the B/S ratio will be better than yesterday, and the lift values are predicted to be in the 4-6kt range.  It will probably be blue, but you can't have everything!  Stay tuned,

Frank (TA)



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  2 comments for “Tullahoma, Tenn GTA Race

  1. Chuck Lohre
    July 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for the post. I look forward to more.

  2. Leo Benetti-Longhini
    July 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Frank, thank you for making the trip south from Ohio to the Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama region and for taking the time to write your impressions about the 4th of July GTA weekend. The Tullahoma airport and nearby Eagleville gliderport have regularly been assigned America’s birthday weekend in the annual GTA calendar. About the only thing missing this year was the free airshow and fireworks on the airfield – one of the local civic groups has raised the event funding every year since 1968 (except for a handful of years, such as this one). In addition to more good weather and food, next year’s GTA is most likely to also have the airshow and fireworks.

    There are numerous people who put energy into the GTA race series – some when the host site happens to be in their backyard and others regardless of location (for example: Chuck Patterson did this weekend’s scoring even though he was unable to attend). Soaring Cafe founders, Bill and Rand, have also been active in the GTA, whether competing or hosting the GTA information on the GliderPilot.org website (see http://www.gliderpilot.org/GTA for rules, scores, etc). Overall its an excellent event structure created by some savvy founders that allows pilots to experience racing with much flexibility (choose whether to fly the nearest events only or hit the road to attend most weekends). The A-class and B-class distinction allows for a very nice stepping stone into racing. The next GTA is in Moontown, Alabama.

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