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September 17, 2000 - Pleasure flight

Eric's (wild) ride

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]

We launch from Spring Street this morning, with a surface forecast of 5kt from the west, and winds aloft at about 20 out of the west. The actual surface conditions are calm at launch time, and we take off after the other four balloons since there is not enough space until the neighboring balloon is standing up. Eric is my passenger this morning, manning the camera, and Al is chasing. In the first shot, we wave goodbye to Al as he picks up the tie-off line.

As we climb through about 300 feet, the speed picks up to about 8kt and we continue to climb until we level out at about 1,300 feet. At this altitude we're doing 20-22mph, so we cover a lot of ground quickly. We pass over the south end of Shuttle Meadow Reservoir as we cross the ridge.

We look back toward the west to see Frank Bart, much higher up, also flying along at a good clip.

After about 25 minutes we're looking for a good landing spot. As we descend, we are surprised to see that we're still doing 20mph!

For a brief period (no more than 5 minutes) the wind drops to about 4kt. At this time, I'm working on one or other of two large farm fields, with a large swath of trees between. Unfortunately, I am over the trees, and there is not much steerability over short distances, so I have to pass them up. I then stay just a bit above treetop level, planning to drop into the first good spot (there are several large fields ahead), and using intervening trees to start me on an approach at a slightly slower speed.

As usual, I'm a sucker for a shadow shot.

I almost make it into a medium-sized just-started new home development site, but I'm traversing it too quickly and getting too close to the trees at the left-hand side, so I burn hard and pop out again, brushing the trees as I climb. Finally, I settle on a field dead ahead, use the treetops to slow down again before reaching it, climb to clear some low-tension power lines, then descend over the trees at the far side. On crossing the tree line I turn off the fuel system, and vent about 20 feet off the ground. We touch down at about 10 mph, bounce and drag about 20 feet. The basket stays upright, but I let the wind continue to deflate the envelope, and Eric takes the crown line to help the deflation.

Some neighbors come out to say hello and take a look at the balloon. We're unable to get ground-to-ground radio contact with Al, so we use our "lost balloon" telephone procedure after a while, and get him directions to our location. In the meantime, we pack up. An interesting flight and an adventure for Eric.

Eric's impressions

It was fun, I enjoyed the floating part a lot - that was cool...If you know what to expect, I think the actual landing would be fun, as is, the second bump and skid after the initial touchdown caught me off guard a mentioned early on about bumping and skidding, I guess I didn't appreciate the time delay until it happened.
Our overall track this morning. We went just about due east for most of the flight, with a slight turn toward the northeast near the end, covering 11.4 miles in 52 minutes aloft.

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