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Early Skywacker History

1970's Skywacker Patch

The Skywackers have been around since the mid-1970's, and have gone through some changes over the years.  The above patch was from the 70's, and was sent in by Wacker Jack Stephenson.  For a good introduction to the early history, check out the Call Of The Skywacker, written by Randy Newberry - once voted President for Life. In 2005, Randy received the first ever Boo Waa Award awarded by the Skywackers.

The early 'Wackers were a sporting bunch, more concerned with flying and partying than keeping records. So the main records of the early years are some photos from Randy Newberry's collection and others. They were there at the birth of our sport, learning where the boundaries are, often by pushing well past them.

Randy Newberry Training Hill Flights

Randy Newberry on the McPeaks training hill, east of Bland, Virginia, flying his Chuck's Glider Supplies Spitfire.  November 1976.  Who needs battens, luff lines, or wheels?

Clinch Mt Flyin - 77

The Wackers make an appearance at a Fly In at Clinch Mountain, Tennessee, Fall 1977
Don Walters, Wisconsin; Jackie Bob Mustard, Bland, VA; ???; Pat Mitchell, Bland, VA; Fred Straccia, Massachusetts;  Kathy Sink, Bland; ???

Clinch Mt Flyin - 77

Randy Newberry at the 1977 Clinch Mountain Fly In with his Spitfire

Skywackers at East River Mountain, 1977 (click to enlarge)
Tina ?, Rodney Pendry, Barbara Sadler, Greg Lemieux, Jimmy Brown, Beth Riley, Steve Spears, Don Riley, Don Walters, Fred Straccia, Randy Newberry.

East River Mountain was once a popular Wacker flying site, with a launch overlooking Bluefield, West Virginia.  There was a K-Mart to the left which commonly generated the Blue Light Special house Thermal.

15 degrees and getting colder as Randy flies his trusty Spitfire in December 1977

Charlie Duff (local radio DJ) landing on the new 4-lane, while it is still under construction in the late 70's (photo by Duane Caldwell)

Randy at High Rock - 1978

Randy Newberry preparing to fly from High Rock on Big Walker mountain, April, 1978.  His Boy Scouts are along to witness the event.  John Muncy, Danny Newberry (over Randy's right shoulder), Mark Newberry, Paul Dillow and Ronnie Dillow.

Rod Pendry, launching off Fisher's Peak in 1978, makes a Magazine cover

This is a news clipping from October, 1978 about a 27 mile flight on Big Walker Mountain.  5 pilots made the flight: Mark Kenyon, Dave Higgenbothem, Randy Newberry, Fred Straccia, and Rodney Pendry.  Jim Zell, Art Hale, and  Mike Agee started the flight, but were forced to land before the Rt 100 Gap.
(click to enlarge)

East River Mountain, Winter 1978.  Tom King, Blacksburg, VA; Debbie Cox, Hillsville, VA; Rodney Pendry, Beckley, WV; Don Walters, Wisconsin; Dave Higembothem, Point Pleasant, WV (deceased); Randy Newberry, Bland; Susan Jackson, Hillsville, VA; Greg Lemieux, Ohio (deceased); Art Hale, Blacksburg, VA; Don Riley, North Carolina; and making a special appearance - in the trees - Fred Straccia of Massachusetts on a Stratus 5
(click to enlarge)

Skywacker Party House

Randy Newberry's house in Bland, Virginia, was long the Skywacker Official Party House (and Randy was once voted President for Life).  Many are the tales from those days, such as the passed-out pilot who awoke to find himself in a full body cast.

Top photo: Mike Anders, Bluefield, WV; Randy; Rodney Pendry, Beckley, WV;  Dave Walsh, Durham, NC - Winter 1979

Skywacker Party House

At Randy's Party House - Randy getting the Birthday Treatment, Sept 11, 1981

Tip Rogers

Having only one leg did not prevent Tip Rogers from flying.  English Mountain, Tennessee, Fall 1981. "I recall it was a very switchy, gusty day.
No one was in a hurry to go, all waiting on someone else to wind dummy, setting around whining.  Tip hopped up as soon as he was set up, hooked in and made a perfect launch.  There was no backing out for the rest of us then. 
I don't believe there was one good launch among <the rest of> us." - Randy Newberry

Launching from Fisher's Peak in 1981. This was a very popular Skywacker site in the early days, along with Big Walker and East River Mountain.

(updated January 5, 2024)

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