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September 9, 2000 - Pleasure flight

Al's ride

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
We're flying from Panthorn Park in Southington this morning. Surface forecast is light and variable, with directions varying between southwest and northwest aloft. Along with ourselves, there are 6 other CLAS members flying from Panthorn today (Robert Zirpolo, Matt Dutkiewicz, Erwin Dressel, Kevin Brielmann, Penny Christy and Santo Galatioto - you can see pictures of their balloons in the CLAS member balloon photo gallery).

Here's a shot of my burner test in this morning's pre-dawn light.

Today it's Al's turn to ride, and Eric is driving chase. Al is obviously impressed with the view and the ride, so much so that he almost forgets to take pictures! We spend much of the flight between 1,000 and 2,000 feet above the ground, and Al comments that it doesn't look as high as you'd think it would.

We track toward the southeast, crossing just to the north of Broad Brook Reservoir, and passing just south of Meriden Markham Municipal Airport (MMK).

We spend the final 20 minutes of the flight working on our landing approach. As you can see from the GPS track at the left, we had to overfly the landing field going southeast, and then descend to just above treetop level to catch an almost 180 degree change of direction and land on our chosen spot, a grassy area of Pargemann Park in Yalesville. We knew about the direction change by watching one of the other balloons a few minutes earlier low down near the field; in the normal course of events we also watch carefully for evidence of the surface wind in the movements of smoke, flags, trees, etc.
At left, the view as we make our final approach to Pargemann Park.

There are several elderly couples in the park, walking their dogs, and they are very excited about the balloon. They spend several minutes with us taking pictures of one another beside the still-inflated balloon, never having seen a balloon so close before.

Eric has arrived just as we landed. After a pause to take a picture of us in the basket, Eric and Al walk the balloon a few yards and over a low guard rail onto the parking lot where we deflate it.

As we finish deflating the balloon, a man and his two young sons show up to see what's going on. We flew over their house just before we landed, and they've rushed over to the park to get a closer look. We spend some time showing the boys the various components of the balloon, to their obvious delight, before packing up and joining the other pilots and crews at breakfast at a local diner.

Our overall track this morning. It was predominantly to the southeast, with the exception of the light and variable winds within 300 feet of the ground.

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