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Terry Presley, T2C, First Ever To Fly From LMFP to Henson's Gap and Back
Terry Presley became the first person to fly from Lookout Mountain Flight Park to Henson's Gap Tennessee and back Friday, September 4, 2009.

Jen Richards ( spent some time talking to Terry about his flight and his glider. Here's her account of Terry's flight:

It was a light wind day, but cloud base was only 5000 msl, or only about 3000 agl over the plateau. Ideally, cloud base would have been higher, but Terry had already decided that his goal for the day was to make it to Henson’s and back. So, with Eric Donaldson and Greg Heckman marking an area of broken lift, he launched off the mountain at 1:45 with high hopes.

Terry Presley and his T2C
Terry Presley and his T2C

Terry had to take a more southerly route to cross Sand Mountain than he generally prefers and almost clipped the corner of the Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia border. His preferred route would have been to cross a more northerly section of Sand Mountain with a lot more potential LZ’s.

With cloud base at only 3000 agl, he kept working between 2000-3000 agl under good clouds and over nice LZ’s until he crossed Nickajack Lake and entered into Sequatchie Valley. He flew up the eastern side of the valley over the plateau. About ten miles before Henson’s he crossed paths with Ollie Gregory and David Giles. Ollie and David were trying to do the reverse route in their ATOS rigid wings.

“We all thermalled up together and headed in opposite directions in our common quest,” Terry said. “We were all on the same frequency and wished each other good luck because we knew we would need it on a day like this.”

Terry later heard that Ollie and David were landing in Lookout Valley. James Stinnett had also launched from Henson’s and was about 10 miles from Terry, encouraging him on the radio.

It took Terry 2 hours to get to Henson’s.

When he arrived at Henson’s, it was not working very well. “At Henson’s I got way, way below launch,” Terry said.

“How low?” I asked.

“I don’t know, maybe 600 feet off the deck.”

After a couple of low saves and an hour of fighting to stay up, Terry was finally able to leave Henson’s and then it turned on again. Turned on may be a bit of an exaggeration. Terry’s best climbs of the day were only 600 fpm and he averaged only 300 fpm.

“I had basically flown up towards Henson’s at the edge of the plateau because that’s where the clouds were; on the east side of the Sequatchie Valley,” explained Terry. “It was the same coming back until I got to Inman Point. Then I committed to a route I wouldn’t normally have chosen.”

The chosen path was a direct route from Inman to LMFP. Terry picked this particular route back because cloud base had risen a bit but was still only about 4000-4500 feet over the plateau. This line isn’t normally chosen because it covers a lot of bad terrain. But, prior to the flight, fellow pilot Rich Annis had pointed out a couple of adequate LZ’s on top of Etna giving Terry a crutch.

Terry was also comfortable with this route because the clouds had been so consistent on his return trip and he only needed one climb to make it safely into Lookout Valley. Well, the clouds looked great and he got his climb, made it into Lookout Valley, and landed at LMFP at around 6:45 local time.

How did it feel? “Probably 20 minutes before I landed I knew I had it,” Terry explained. “But I hadn’t flown in a couple of months, so I was very tired after five hours.”

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Terry, he is a very humble, easy going man. One of the nicest people in hang gliding. Flying is just what he does. He has been an airline pilot for 26 years, has been flying hang gliders since 1972, and he is often seen in a Stearman, Fokker triplane or another light aircraft. In the hang gliding world, he is something of a legend (not that he would ever feel comfortable with that moniker). If you see Terry setting up, it’s a pretty good indication that you should do the same. When Terry launches, people follow. Terry started flying in competitions in 1994 and was on the World Team in 2001, but hung it up in 2006 because “the itch was scratched.”

Why had no one ever done this flight before? A 64-mile out and back is really nothing with today’s gliders.

“I just don’t know,” Terry said. “It’s really not that big of a deal. Now that it’s been done, I think its going to be done a lot more. People just aren’t geared for out and backs. We’re geared with straight line, down wind XC distance. Out and back is more challenging and is more difficult especially when you are going to a declared point.”

Was it the pilot and the glider? Terry’s been flying topless gliders for many years and thinks that the T2C is the cleanest glider that Wills has ever made. “They’ve listened to their newest group of hot factory pilots and have produced as aerodynamically clean of a glider as they possible could,” Terry said. “By far their best effort. The performance is really showing up from their attention to detail.”

All five US World team members this year are flying T2C’s.

According to Terry, the T2C is more well-balanced, has better spiral stability, handles better than any high performance glider he’s ever owned, and it lands easier. “For a topless glider it seems to land easier, seems to track straighter and has a bigger flare window,” he explained.

Many have tried, some have gotten close, but only Terry has made it. Congratulations Terry!

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