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July 23, 2000 - Solo Flight

Side by side

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
We're back to Spring St this morning, with the surface wind forecast at 5kt out of the northwest, and similar direction at altitude. There are four of us today. Aside from "Big Green," Robert Zirpolo has his large balloon, Matt Dutkiewicz is here, and Santo has brought his balloon too. This is the first time that Santo and I have flown our balloons side-by-side.

Santo is surrounded by PhD's this morning (Al is driving chase for Santo, who's giving a lesson to Macarena in his balloon, while Eric and Claude, two first-time crew members are chasing me in the little white car that could) and complains that, despite the abundance of doctors, there's nobody here who can prescribe so much as a band-aid for him!

We get a late start setting up the balloon, so Robert and Matt lift off first, and are seen here in the distance.

They're followed after a while by Santo and Macarena, who explore a box wind at low altitude and take advantage of the backward drift to practise a landing in the next field over to the west. You can see the shadows of both their balloon and mine in the background of this shot, off to the right of the balloon.
By the time Santo and Macarena have turned around and are passing us again, this time a bit south of our position, I'm ready to take off so we drift along side by side, toward the southeast.
Here's a view of the launch field shortly after I take off. You can see Santo's chase vehicle (with the red trailer), the little white car that could, with its blue trailer, and our three valiant crew members Eric, Al and Claude, as they watch us drift away.
Exploring the winds, I note that the direction is fairly constant and speed is about 2kt, but at about 850 msl the speed picks up and I'm see that I'm doing 12 or 13 mph (courtesy of my new GPS). A couple of hundred feet higher, Santo is doing 17mph.

A short time later, in this picture, we're at the same altitude.

I get on the radio and say "Hey, Macarena - smile!" They both take the opportunity to play to the camera with big waves.

Meanwhile, down below, our chase crews are doing a great job this morning. Al is chasing Santo on his own, while Eric and Claude are following me.

Al is pulled over on Pleasant St, watching Santo's track. [Later, he's rumored to have mentioned he's sorry he didn't bring along his New York Times. I make a mental note to have Al chase solo on a day when the winds aloft are moving, and to fly a few thousand feet up, just to give him an adequate challenge!]

Santo and Macarena have been in the air about 15 minutes longer than I have, but we're both approaching,at about 2kt, a huge farm field that looks like a great landing spot. They're lower down than I am, and they approach over the trees and drop in by the dirt road that traverses the field. I'm approaching more steeply and, since there are large powerlines at the downwind end of the field, I choose to land a bit firmly, and as close to the treeline as I can. Of course, now I'm about 250 yards further down the field than Santo and Macarena, so I have to keep the balloon hot, wait for my crew to find the spot and walk to me, then walk the balloon back to the paved road in the nearby neighborhood for deflation. That entire process takes about 20 minutes.

Here are two views from the basket after landing. You can see the shadow of the balloon (so you know we're looking west, since it's morning-time) and even the shadow of the pilot/photographer!. In the second picture, Eric and Claude are beginning to approach on foot. We had to get the balloon to the neighborhood cul-de-sac by walking it through a back yard between the houses in the distance (with the permission of the homeowner, of course).

My track this morning, uploaded from the GPS unit. The direction was toward the southeast.

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