Michael F. Stringfellow
"Mike the Strike"

I was born towards the end of the World War ll in the then coal-mining and steel-making town of Chesterfield, that's in the D.H. Lawrence country of England near Sheffield, Yorkshire.   I am distantly related to the famous Stringfellow who invented a steam-powered model airplane and the infamous night-club owner.

As a teenager I built model gliders, airplanes and rockets.  After one of the latter exploded and showered my neighborhood with shrapnel, an incident which caught the interest of both the local police and fire department, I concentrated on the less pyrotechnic gliders.  

Chesterfield 1959

My interest in meteorology was sparked by my high-school physics teacher and I went on to London University, where I received a B.Sc. in Physics and then on to Durham University for a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics.

My primary professional interest is lightning and its effects on power systems and structures.   I was given the nickname "Mike the Strike"  by a local newspaper when I started a project in 1972 to artificially trigger lightning using rocket-launched wires in Britain as part of a research study.

My first flying was a training course in gliders in Britain in the mid 1960's, where I learnt the joys of piloting T21 B open-cockpit trainers launched by winch.  I never soloed and wasn't able to take up flying at the time.  It wasn't until ten years later, after I had emigrated to South Africa in the mid 1970's, that I took up flying again.  After moving to Johannesburg, I was taught to fly hang gliders by Francois de Klerk, who was running a hang-gliding school on the mine dumps just outside the town.  I went on to become one of the early members of the Thermal Riders Hang Gliding Club, holding C licence number 35, and for several years flew at mountain sites throughout Southern Africa.  

Johannesburg 1977

My best memories are flying over the city of  Cape Town and landing in a schoolyard, ridge soaring over the sand dunes north of George on the Wilderness coast and thermalling high in the mountains of the northern Transvaal..

With the difficulty of mountain launches, the remoteness of many of the good sites and the absence of winch launching or aerotows in those days, many of us converted to sailplanes around 1980.  I joined the Magalies Gliding Club in 1981 and soloed in their ASK13's that year.  I bought my first ship soon afterwards - a Jantar -1 19 m sailplane, ZS-GOJ.

Johannesburg 1983

With my own ship and the excellent soaring conditions in the highveld of South Africa, I completed my Gold Badge within two years as well as my diamond goal.  I also came within a few hundred feet of Diamond altitude at a wave camp in the Drakensberg mountains in 1984.

After marrying in 1984, my wife Anne and I emigrated to the USA in 1985.  We were first located in Florida, then moved to Georgia shortly afterwards, where  I resumed gliding with the Atlanta Soaring Club.  In 1988, we moved to Salt Lake City, where I joined the Utah Soaring Association.  It was there that I bought my first US glider, an LS-4, which I flew both at Heber and Cedar Valley.   After that, another move  took us to Florida for a three year non-flying interlude before we relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 1998.

I joined the Arizona Soaring Association in that year, bought my first glider in years, ASW-20 "WA" N24WA and resumed gliding in earnest.  The ASA is noted for its keen group of cross-country pilots, and I was soon dragged off across the forbidding and largely unlandable terrain northwest of Phoenix.  I have participated in a number of contests, starting with the local ASA series and moving on to several Region 9 contests at Hobbs (2001 and 2003) and Turf (2002).  In 2005, I sold the ASW-20 and shortly afterwards bought a Discus 2B, my present ship.

Having done most of my cross-country soaring in landable terrain and with nice cumulus clouds to guide me, I had to learn some new tricks in Arizona.  Grappling with finding and flying in blue thermals is one of the challenges, as is trying to understand the conditions that lead to good soaring and how to forecast them


Phoenix 2002

I currently work for PowerCET Corporation, a small consulting firm based in Silicon Valley for whom I manage the Scottsdale office.  I am involved in consulting, education and training in areas concerning power quality and electromagnetic compatibility and my particular specialty is lightning hardening of high-technology facilities.  I am also one of the few practitioners in the field of lightning forensics, the investigation of lightning related accidents and property loss.

You can e-mail me at Stringmike@msn.com

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