Tracy Knauss' passion for flight took him on adventures for over 40 years, from hang-gliding down Lookout Mountain to flying an ultralight from the top of a volcano; even producing his own magazine about personal flight.
For his contributions to the global ultralights community, made up of those with an interest in the single-seat, powered flying machines, The Experimental Aircraft Association's Sport Aviation Hall of Fame recently inducted Knauss into its ranks.
Ultralight is a unique form of flying in which the machine must weigh less than 254 pounds, have a top speed of 63 miles per hour and be flown in daylight, below the clouds and above empty land with no developments. The person flying the craft does not have to have a pilot's license unless it is an amateur-built machine, but training is highly recommended.
Knauss was inducted into the hall of fame primarily for his magazine, Light Sport & Ultralight Flying, which he began after moving to Chattanooga in 1975 and which lasted until last year.
"I started the Lookout Mountain Flight Park in 1977 and incorporated it in 1978. And I started Sport Aeronautics Inc. that produced the American Cup international hang-gliding team championships in 1978," Knauss said.
Knauss even met his wife, Donna, while hang-gliding.
"She walked up to me and asked if I fly. I said yes, to flight and marriage," he said, adding that 33 years later, they are still married and now have two grown children.
"Tracy became an information source for ultralights," said Experimental Aircraft Association Director of Communications Dick Knapinski. "He was the go-to guy for information and getting people involved, intrigued and motivated in the world of flight."
But approximately 15 years ago, Knauss began experiencing vertigo and had to "retire his wings."
"But I have enough memories to last a lifetime, from hang-glider flights lasting longer than five hours to having flown off of volcanoes in other nations," he said.
Although his experiences and accomplishments in the flight community are vast, Knauss said his induction came as a surprise.
"It was really interesting. I got a text message saying 'Congratulations,' and I thought it was a mistake and I didn't return the call," he said.
In spite of the initial disbelief, Knauss said he was honored to attend the celebration of his induction.
"It was incredible. When I got there, they all stood up and started clapping. It was so emotional," Knauss said.
Though flying is no longer an option due to his vertigo, Knauss said he isn't done yet.
"I love living. I love life. I've had many interests. I've done many things," he said. "But I'm still going. Only gravity itself can put an end to my activities."