November 19, 1999 - Ballooning from Cheshire to Hartford
"Let's go somewhere this morning..." [Robert Zirpolo, 0645 EST, 11/19/99, Ushchak Aerodrome][Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
|This is the balloon we're flying this morning, although the picture was taken on a different day. It's a Firefly 8, made by The Balloon Works and owned and piloted by Robert Zirpolo. Robert operates a commercial balloon ride business called Berkshire Balloons. This is the smaller of his two Firefly balloons, at 105,000 cubic feet; it can carry the pilot and 4 or 5 passengers (today there were four of us in the basket, including Robert). The larger is a Firefly 9, at 140,000 cubic feet, which can carry 6 passengers.
|Before we took off from Steve Ushchak's field in northeast Cheshire, Robert has set landing at Hartford's Brainard airport (see map below), about 25 miles away, as his landing goal. We're picking up 25kt winds aloft out of the southwest, so we're on track. Here we're just about to cross over Kenmore Reservoir in Berlin (about 3/4 of a mile east of the Southington/Berlin line).
|An almost perfectly symmetrical view of the crown of the balloon in flight, taken from the basket.
|Getting close to Hartford. Brainard is Class D airspace, so we need 2-way radio contact before entering. "Brainard Tower, Balloon 7053 Zulu..."
|Brainard is coming up. We see Hartford in the distance, with Wethersfield Cove in the left foreground, the Connecticut River in the right foreground. You can see the runway just beyond the river, which is the direction we're actually tracking. So far, so good.
|Crossing the Connecticut River, with the Putnam Memorial Bridge to our left, after a rapid descent. Since we expect the surface wind to veer left, we've been as high as 3,000' to track to the right of our ultimate destination to compensate. Unfortunately, it's becoming clear as we descend that we're not going to get as much left as we'd thought. Missed it by that much!
|We've crossed the river now (from south to north, but the river bends north just south of Brainard), and we're looking west to Brainard airport, as we track just about due north, to our alternate landing site, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft's Rentschler Field.
|This map will help clarify some of the narrative.
|A last look over our left shoulder at Hartford Brainard airport, as we begin our approach to Rentschler for a moderately fast landing (about 8mph or so). This is, of course, obviously where one will run out of film. Sigh...
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