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January 8, 2000 - Hare and Hounds from Southington, CT

CLAS Competition Flight

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
This morning we're flying Santo's balloon, an Aerostar Aurora S53A, at 69,000 cubic feet. There are several balloons flying this morning, from Aqua Turf in Southington, as it's a competition event for the Connecticut Lighter than Air Society (CLAS). Today's task is a "hare and hounds" event (more later).
Macarena has inflated the balloon, and then swapped places with Santo, who is getting the balloon to equilibrium again just before I climb in.
Preflight checks. Santo gives Macarena (in foreground) final chase instructions while removing the inflation tank and reconnecting our main fuel tank. We use a separate fuel tank while inflating the balloon to conserve the entire capacity of our main tank - 25 gallons - for actual flying. Inflating this balloon typically takes 2 or 3 gallons of propane.
Macarena and Carlos (taking this picture!) are our chase crew this morning.
Heading east into the sun, we cast a perfect shadow behind us on the sheer rock face of the eastern side of Meriden Mountain, as we descend toward Merimere Reservoir.
Another shadow shot, this time on the bare trees...

Today's flight is a hare and hounds event. The "hare" balloon takes off a while before all of the others (the "hounds"). The hare's pilot lands after a time and spreads a large "X" on the ground. The objective is for the pilot of each of the remaining balloons to navigate as close as possible to the "X", and toss overboard a beanbag with a streamer attached. The winner is the one whose toss comes closest to the "X". Although it looked like we weren't going to get anywhere close, we were able to pick up a 90 degree turn to the left in the valley where the hare landed, and managed to overly the "X". (Santo flew the balloon to the "X", deftly overcoming the damage I'd done to our chances by going too high as we crested the ridge!). Unfortunately our beanbag, along with the only other one to come close, (Frank Bart's), was not recovered so an official result could not be determined. However, this sequence of 3 shots shows us approaching and overflying the "X". So there!!!!

That was the last of the picture-taking; things got busy as we prepared to land, a fast (about 12mph) but ultimately stand-up landing in a large fallow field in Middletown.

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