Log-7 TN, KY, WVA


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May 9, 2005
Hendersonville, NC to Greenville, TN to Lonesome Pine, VA to Pikeville, KY to Bluefield, W. VA to New River Valley, VA


What an incredible day!  My most ambitious so far with 6 hours of flying and stops in 5 states in one day.  Most of the flying was quite demanding as I was following narrow winding roads through the mountains with steep mountains rising up on both sides of me.  On a few occasions where the roads had literally been blasted out of solid rock I flew through gaps less than 500 feet wide!  Some of the valleys were wide enough to accommodate rivers but most were so narrow that the road and railroad ran within a few feet of each other sharing the tiny flat ground at the bottom of the valley.  The steep hillsides were covered with heavy timber except in a few dramatic spots in Kentucky where the tops of entire mountains had been leveled for strip mining of coal. 

The day started with my departure from Hendersonville airport.  My flight service briefing had informed me that  Asheville, 8 miles away, whose airspace I had to transition had their radar down for repairs.  This was a fortunate thing for me as when I tried to call them they could not hear my radio and I was forced to transit the edge of their space without communicating with them.  Mountains prevented me from climbing to the clear area outside of their space so I hugged the earth and flew past them.  At least they had no radar to see me and wonder what I was doing there. 

For the first part of the flight I followed the French Broad River as it wound its way from North Carolina to Tennessee where I stopped at the airport in Greenville.  A short investigation on the ground revealed a loose radio antenna wire so I reconnected it properly and took off to the east.  The day was perfect with clear skies and winds of less than 5 knots.  The next part of the trip through the green valleys of eastern Tennessee was spectacularly beautiful.  Had I known it was such a pretty area we would have arranged to spend more time exploring here but both Dee and I were headed towards Virginia, though her route was far more direct.

Before long the small green hills of Tennessee gave way to the mountains of Virginia and I began to see a few strip mines.  After about an hour's flight I touched down at Lonesome Pine in Wise, Virginia.  I had not planned on stopping here but the wonderful name had intrigued me so at the last minute as I was flying past I instead banked east and dropped in to the airport where I was greeted by 3 of the local pilots attracted by the gyro. 

After a short stop I was again airborne and headed North into Kentucky.  As I climbed out and rejoined the road I was following the hills seemed to close in around me.  It was amazing following these tiny roads as they wove through the mountains going first north, then west, south, west again then back north and eventually east the way both they and I really wanted to go.  It was another 40 minutes of these twists and turns before I came to a valley wide enough for an airport and began looking for the Hatcher airport in Pike County, Kentucky.  The airport was on a mesa above the town.  Looking at the steep drop off just before the runway made me feel like I was landing on an aircraft carrier.    As I neared the approach I pulled the power but the wind currents coming up the cliff in front of the runway caused the air to rise lifting me with it.  Eventually with the power set to idle the gyro was still going up at about 500 feet per minute, then as I passed the cliff's edge and was over the runway the lift ended and I sank quickly towards the ground.  I let the gyro drift down until it was only 3 feet above the asphalt then added power and flew along the runway finally pulling to idle and flaring for a perfect landing 5 feet in front of the taxiway turnoff.

After fueling up I chat with the line operator here as I eat the lunch Dee had kindly packed for me.   It's after 2  pm and I still have quite a distance left to travel so I strap in and take-off again. 

The straight line distance to my next destination is 67 nautical miles.  I could climb to 5,000 feet and just fly above the mountains direct as I would in a fixed wing airplane, but that seems to defeat the purpose of doing this in a gyro where I can be close to the ground.  On the other hand flying the gyro close to the ground over such rugged roadless and forested terrain seems foolhardy so I continue to follow the few roads.  That may be a wasted effort in this area though as the roads are so curvy and the valley bottoms so narrow and tree covered any landing would be difficult.  I pay a price for the added sense of safety though.  The roads are so curvy and indirect that instead of flying 67 miles I end up flying 116 miles. 

In Colorado, where I'm from, the mountains mostly flow downwards from the Continental divide and usually run in a predictable direction with a wide valley floor in between the different ranges.  But here there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to their direction.  I stay down in the narrow winding valleys rarely being able to see more than a few miles in any direction and fly by road using my GPS to keep certain I'm over the correct road.  On one or two occasions I climb up to look ahead but all I see are range after range of mountains going in no particular direction. 

Fortunately the weather today has remained perfect proving that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.  Even in mid-afternoon there is virtually no wind so my mountain flying is smooth and comfortable.  I wonder how many days in a year are as calm as this - not many I'll wager. 

One mountain flying technique that I always use in the Rockies where I've done much of my flying in airplanes is to fly up one side of the valley rather than up the middle, so that if I need to turn around I have more room for the turn.  My gyroplane can spin on a dime in a very tiny space so I've never worried about using that technique in a gyro but today several spots I fly thorough are so narrow I revert to that technique for safety. 

Eventually the twists and turns end and I come through one last gap in the mountains and am over nice open green hillsides as I cross back into Virginia.  From here its only a few more miles to my final stop for the day near Dublin, Virginia.

What a fantastic day it's been.  The flying was demanding and challenging, the scenery spectacular and I had perfect weather all day- how lucky can a guy get!

French Broad River

Green hills of Tennessee

Tennessee Hills 2

GPS- following the road

Tennessee Hills 3

Mountains Everywhere

Into the gap

A road through the trees

Strip Mine

Finally Open Fields again




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This site was last updated 10/13/05

Copyright Rob Dubin 2005