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June 18, 2000 - Fathers Day/Birthday

Michele's first flight

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]

Big Green takes to the skies again. Today we're back at Spring Street for the third successive flight, with light and variable winds forecast on the surface, 12kt winds from the north at 3,000 feet, and from the west at 6,000. We expect to drift south, which is how things work out, at speeds from about 10kt above 1,000 feet down to a gentle 2kt on the surface as we land.

Pictured are two views before take-off. In the first, Robert's balloon is part-way through hot inflation while we are just about to begin ours. The second is a view upward between the two balloons as they touch while standing upright.

It's not just Michele's 11th birthday today, it's also Fathers Day. Michele was born on Fathers Day in 1989, so this is a special day for both of us. Santo takes this picture of a very happy student pilot dad and his birthday girl shortly after takeoff. Then, he says "I'm going to point out the sights to Michele; you just fly the balloon!"

Santo tells me, almost immediately after launch, to look for a landing spot for a practice landing about 10 minutes into the flight. A few of the candidate spots don't work out since there is not much steerage available this morning. I decide on a scrub area just in front of a parking lot but, as we get closer, we see there are cows in the intervening fields. Rather than spook the livestock, we switch to the whisper burner and abort the approach. Santo and Michele look at one another and grin, and Santo shrugs his shoulders. "Pity," he says, "Michele and I were planning to get out."

He's not kidding. After the flight, he endorses my student certificate and my logbook with permission to solo. Although I knew a solo was probably coming soon, I had figured that giving Michele a ride meant the solo would happen another day. And so it will.

Michele's impressions

"Wow. This is so cool." My second time crewing also ended up as my birthday, and I got to fly! The first time I crewed, it was on "Big Green's" maiden flight. When we got to the field, we started the set up process. Robert Zirpolo was also flying passengers from the same field in his Firefly 105 balloon. We started the usual stuff, laying out the envelope and assembling the basket "accessories" (uprights, etc.) Then we started to cold-inflate. Robert had more crew, so they were farther along than we were, but we took off at almost the same time. When my dad and Mr. G. were about to take off, they told me to hop in the basket because they "needed some extra weight." And to think that I was gullible enough to believe them! Then Mr. G. told Gaston, Lisa, and Andrew to let us go, and then he said "Happy Birthday, Michele!" and we took off! In the air, Mr. G. showed me a lot of places while my dad flew the balloon. Mr. G. showed me Mount Southington, the ski slope; Sleeping Giant park; New Haven; Hartford; and Lake Compounce amusement park. As well as Robert's balloon, in the distance we saw Kathy Wadsworth's balloon. It was a short flight, only about 35 minutes. As we came in for landing in Panthorn park, Mr. G. picked a top branch of one of the tallest pine trees for me as a souvenir. We landed in the middle of a road in the park, and our crew came to help us pack up. "I had a great time today!!!"
Note: Mr. G = Santo Galatioto, Jim's instructor
About 25 minutes into the flight, we start looking seriously at Panthorn Park for landing. We have a nice track for the park and it's familiar to us as it's a regular launch site for some of our balloon club members. Here we cross La Course Pond just at the north end of the park. We track to the right of both of the main fields of the park, instead approaching over some stands of pine trees to land on the access road to the park, since the winds on the surface are a gentle 2kt. As the basket brushes through the tips of the highest trees, Santo picks a piece of the topmost branch and hands it to Michele as a souvenir. We land on the grass on the near side of the road, and allow the basket to skip and slide a little until it comes to rest in the middle of the road.
Here is where the balloon came to a stop after landing. (Our approach to landing was from the left of this picture). On the ground, while the balloon is still inflated, Santo swaps places with Andrew so we have a photo-opportunity for me, Michele and Andrew (my second-oldest, 8 1/2). Can you tell we're all having a good time this morning?
We have a good-sized crew today. Michele and Andrew, Lisa (an experienced, useful <g>, crew member) and Gaston (a neighbor and eager first-time crew member) accompany Santo and myself. In this picture we're about to deflate the balloon. Santo holds the crown line, ready to pull the balloon over when I open the top of the balloon with the vent line, Gaston and Lisa are holding the left and right sides of the basket, respectively, and I'm in the basket purging the propane lines by burning off the excess fuel after closing the tank valves.

After deflation and pack-up, with the additional help of a bystander and his kids, it's off to Gene's for breakfast!

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