Soar Above the Clouds in Eagleville
On any given sunny Saturday, the skies of Eagleville are alight with colorful birds—not of the warm-blooded variety, though. Indeed, while the southwest portion of Rutherford County may lay claim to less than 800 residents, it is renowned in the world of sailplanes, nevertheless. The landscape is a mix of rolling Tennessee countryside and is in the dead center of the state, perfectly positioned for the solitary sport of gliding.
It only makes sense that a study of turkey vultures—experts of the animal kingdom in using rising heat called thermals to stay aloft, which is a critical part of how glider planes work—took place from Puckett Gliderport. Pilots often follow the signs of these ubiquitous creatures to gain altitude while soaring up to 16,000 feet during a flight.
“Eagleville Puckett Field is the oldest continually operated airport in the state, established in 1938,” Ron Tuttle, Eagleville Soaring Club president, says. “It’s nothing fancy and like an old shoe, but there’s a lot of history in the dirt here.”
Pilots have operated these long-winged and majestic aircraft at Eagleville Soaring Club since the 1950s, and the organization operates on a membership structure, much like a golf club with dues and privileges. Members are able to use the house gliders, of which there are four, at any point throughout the year as well as the gas-powered tow planes to kick off the adventure.
Specializing in training the youth by offering full tuition scholarships to this addictive hobby, the club also trains elite competitors in the sport for cross-country competitions.
“Last year we had two scholarships for two young men, ages 14 and 16, from zero to their pilot license,” Tuttle says. “We try to find those kids that just have that dying passion for aviation, and we’ll train them up.”
The destination also plays host to a number of bucket list experiences for those that dream of flying in the clouds. Soar up to 3,000 feet in the air for an hour on the Red Tail Hawk ride, which is $150 and should be reserved in advance.
Eagleville Soaring Club is always accepting new members. Membership runs $1,000 for full members—which includes instruction and rentals, but excludes normal towing fees—and $500 annually for youth ages 15 to 18, those enrolled in an accredited university and seniors ages 70 or older. The club also regularly sponsors scholarships.
To join the club, download a membership application or call the organization at 800-306-6690.