Sequatchie Badge & Record Camp


A full treatment of safety in ridge flying is outside the scope of this document.

Perhaps the most basic safety rule is that when you are anywhere near the ridge, all your turns should be away from the terrain and toward the valley.  A small lapse here could put you in the trees (and you wouldn’t be the first).  A more general version of this (applicable to every moment of every glider flight) is that you must at all times have a route to safety: away from nearby terrain and toward a safe place to land.  You must also have the discipline to exercise this escape strategy when called for – even if it means landing in that field you’ve chosen when a few more marginal passes just above the trees might possibly have resulted in a lucky save and a return home.

All ridge pilots must understand the “rules of the road”.  One of these states that when vessels (e.g. gliders) meet, they alter course to the right to avoid colliding.  On a ridge, this means that a pilot with the ridge on his right (in a westerly wind, the pilot who is northbound) has the right of way: the ridge constrains his ability to alter course, so the pilot with the valley on his right (the southbound pilot) bears the principal burden for avoiding a problem. 

Another basic rule is that an overtaking vessel must keep clear.  In many discussions this is presented as a rule that when you overtake a glider on the ridge, you should pass between it and the ridge: the logic is that you should avoid blocking that pilot’s option to turn in a safe direction: away from the ridge and toward the valley.  But a serious pilot will often be flying close enough to the ridge that there isn’t room to safely pass on the ridge side.  To deal with this, you should first gain some height (which will be converted to speed, for a quicker and thus safer passing maneuver), make a radio call (on 123.3 MHz – the frequency all glider pilots should use when away from the airfield) to warn that you are about to pass, then scoot by on the valley side as briskly as you can.

Safety in ridge flying is greatly enhanced when all pilots understand the need for both vigilance and cooperation.  The ridge can easily accommodate all who wish to use it – or it can funnel inattentive / inconsiderate pilots into conflict with others. In connection with this, note that there is a hang glider launch ramp near Dunlap: please take care to politely share the air with these craft.

Because valley fields can be tricky, it would be ideal if pilots flying here had some experience of ridge flying and outlandings.  If you do not, plan to approach this carefully.  A thing to avoid is pushing a bit too hard on the ridge, getting low, then trying to execute a rushed landing into a difficult, poorly scouted field.

A final very basic point is that there are times when the only way to stay safe is not to fly.  Safety limits differ, so the fact that someone else was skillful – or lucky – enough to complete a flight does not imply that you were wrong to avoid that treacherous route – or to stay on the ground.  You are almost certainly the best judge of your own limits, and it’s certain that if you fly long enough, good judgment will help protect you while poor judgment will land you in trouble.


Here are some risk factors that Sequatchie pilots should be aware of.  Your chance of problems here reliably increases if:
  • You have made few glider flights in the previous 30 days
  • The glider you plan to fly is new to you
  • You are not sharp on crosswind takeoff and landing techniques
  • You have limited ridge-soaring experience
  • You have made few off-airfield landings
  • You plan to attempt longer flights than you have previously made

It should be obvious that many of these will apply to many pilots attending a ridge-soaring encampment in March.  This should not deter you from attending, but should make you careful about the conditions you choose to fly in.