The founders of TBSS were Robert Garcia who lives at Pilot Country Airport, Peter Espenlaub, Rick Smith, Ed Bates, Gerry Spies and others who came along shortly after Ken Strait, Harry Herb, Ray Foley, John Mincey and John Mackie. John was number 10 in the club. The club was started at pilot country with a leased Blanik that was owned by Robert Garcia in 1983 or 1984. I started in 1985. The club operated out of pilot country until April 17, 1988 at which time we were told that the airport would be closed for the weekend to sweep the runway. We moved the fleet to Topp of Tampa and then found out they had closed the runway only to the gliders. There were also new residents that did not want the gliders there. By this time the fleet had grown to two Blaniks, an SGS 1-34 and a Twin Lark. Peter Espenlaub owned the Blaniks and the other sailplanes were owned by other members and all were leased to the club. We decided to remain at Topp of Tampa and stayed there until October 1988. The following period was extremely difficult for the club and its members. Peter Espenlaub crashed the L19 towplane after an engine failure at low altitude, taking off from Vandenburg airport. Pete died as a result of the injuries. Hulan Nasworthy owned the L19 towplane. After scouring the area looking for a towplane to use, John Mackie went to see Steve Coan at Winterhaven. Steve agreed to tow us between his tow needs. The distance to Winterhaven kept a lot of members away and the flying dropped to a very low level of activity. It became increasingly apparent that in order for the club to survive, we had to buy our own towplane. As treasurer at the time John Mackie spearheaded an operation to assess all members $250.00 and asked for and received interest free loans sufficient to purchase a C150/150. This critical move was accomplished by vote at a club meeting. I found and purchased the aircraft in Venice, Florida. We moved back to Topp of Tampa in April of 1989 and remained there until Sept 1990.The owner of Topp of Tampa was getting divorced and the wife's lawyer told her we were all a liability, so we all had to move including Cliff Dobson's skydiving operation. Cliff had already bought south Lakeland airport and told us we were welcome to move there. We remained there until August 1997 when we moved to ZPH. The reason was a disagreement with the operators.
The C150/150 that we purchased was about 14,000 dollars. That money was raised in a week through phone calls and pledges at the meeting. The revenues from the tow fees paid for the aircraft in 14 months. From that time on the tow fees paid for the gliders. The first glider purchased was Blanik N68PE, which was owned by Pete Espenlaub. Pete's widow sold us the aircraft for $10,000 to be paid over as long a period as we wished, interest free. From that time on we just kept increasing the fleet and buying, instead of leasing. Leasing worked well for our club due to the fact it was not in a financial position to make large purchases.
What is the "Mackie Notch"?
By Bruce Patton
Have you ever noticed that distinctive notch in the Class B airspace in the area north of State Road 54 and east of I-75? Some of the seasoned members of Tampa Bay Soaring Society (TBSS) call that area "The Mackie Notch." In 1989, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) put out a "Notice of proposed rulemaking." This twenty-six page document notified the public of the proposed establishment of the Tampa Terminal Control Area (TCA). At this time TBSS was operating from Topp of Tampa airport within the 3,000-foot lower limit of the proposed TCA. As we all know a 3,000-foot limit on flying would drastically limit any glider operations.
After asking for and getting assistance from the Soaring Society of America (SSA), John Mackie, the then TBSS President, got involved in the FAA rulemaking process. John attended meetings and wrote a letter complete with two proposals for change in the planned airspace restrictions. Due to John's commitment to our sport the FAA agreed to move the boundaries of the 6,000-foot lower limit to include the area north of State Road 54 and east of I-75.
The ironic part of the story is the day the new TCA became effective, September 20, 1990, all the tenants of Topp of Tampa airport were advised to vacate within thirty days as the owner was closing the airport. In a thank you letter to the SSA, John explained "We had won the battle but lost the war. " TBSS then moved to South Lakeland and was unable to enjoy the benefits of the "Mackie Notch" until eight years later when the club moved to our present location at Zephyrhills.
The next time you thermal above 3,000 feet north of State Road 54 and west of State Road 39, remember you have that right due to the hard work of our past President, John Mackie.
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Last modified: January 19, 2008