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October 14, 2000 - Pleasure flight

"I've just got to get back in the air!"

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]

We're flying out of Panthorn Park this morning, along with 7 other balloons. All of the others but one are flying passengers for Berkshire Balloons, as this is one of the peak weekends for viewing the fall foliage, which is currently spectacular. Michele, who last flew on her birthday, is my passenger this morning. For weeks now, she's been telling me that she's just got to get back in the air, so today's her chance! Carlos is chasing us in the "little white car that could."

In case you're wondering, that's my checklist clipped to my shirt pocket. I find it handy to have it clipped either to a shirt pocket, or to a t-shirt sleeve in summer weather, as I can easily work through it, have the use of both hands, and not keep losing it. A word of advice to other balloonists reading this: if you carry a checklist in this manner, don't forget to remove it after landing before you squeeze the air out of the envelope, as the metal clip could be a tearing hazard otherwise. The same advice applies to that striker you stick in your pocket before taking off!

Next is a nice shot of Matt getting Robert's 105 to equilibrium before take-off. It's just after dawn, as you can infer from the fact that the glow of the burner is quite visible through the fabric.

Finally, two pictures of "Big Green" departing, one close-up taken by Carlos, and one after we've drifted downwind for a couple of minutes, taken by Lisa, crewing for Santo this morning. Lisa also handled the crown line for our inflation today; it's fairly common for pilots and crew to help one another if one shows up short-staffed, or to lend equipment like fans to one another on the field.

The wind is variable near the surface, so the balloons leave in different directions but, as we climb, we all begin to follow a track to the east, or east southeast. In the first shot, we're still climbing out of Panthorn, and looking to the right.

Next, a view of some of the other balloons as we head east into the rising sun.

We cross over Meriden Mountain north of the radio towers. The ridge is resplendent with fall foliage. Here you can just see Hubbard Park Castle, situated at the base of the ridge.

A little later on, we pass over a small lake. I'm hoping we'll get a nice photograph of our reflection in the water, but there are too many ripples so we don't even bother trying. We do, however, get a picture of Mike Kirkwood and Robert Zirpolo, that includes a reflection of Mike's balloon (at the left of the picture).
Here's a shot of "Big Green's" shadow as we descend over the far side of a mountain ridge that is glowing with fall colors.

At the western edge of Middletown, we approach a large neighborhood with big lawns and large common grassy areas. Since we expect a left turn on the surface, we approach this neighborhood fairly high up, and start a moderately steep descent as we get close. As we approach for landing, we get the expected left turn, and decide on a large back yard. We get permission to land from the homeowner before we cross his front yard, and go on to land on his property. He, and several of the neighbors, including children, come to us immediately and, after confirming our exact address so we can direct Carlos via radio to our landing site, they help us deflate and pack up. All the while, everyone seems to be having a good time, and there's lots of laughter. There are many questions about the balloon, too, and we're happy to answer them.

After we've packed up, Carlos takes a picture of Michele and myself with our extended temporary crew! Aside from Michele (at left) and yours truly (at the back) there are Dan, Matthew and Tom, and several of their children. A great end to a wonderful flight, as we head off to Gene's to meet the other crews for breakfast!

Michele's impressions

"Wow." My second time up, but it felt like I had been doing it for years. The setup was basically the same as last time, but the actual flight was different. We took off from Panthorn Park, and landed in a neighborhood in Middletown. There is a picture of all the neighbors and kids that helped. I enjoyed this flight a lot.

Our flight track this morning, courtesy of the trusty GPS receiver. We covered 9 miles in about 1 hour 7 minutes.

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