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October 15, 2000 - Pleasure flight

Andrew gets a "proper" ride

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
We're back at Panthorn Park, this time as one of a flight of 12 balloons. It seems that many of the balloons that flew from Farmington yesterday have joined us at Panthorn today, making it a mini-festival.

Today I'm taking Andrew for a ride. During the Plainville festival, Andrew flew with me on the evening flight, and only got a 10-minute ride. Finally, he gets his chance to get a "proper" longer flight. A neighbor of mine, Jim, joins our crew for the first time this morning. (His son and Andrew are good friends). Carlos is back with us again, so we have two "old hands" to help show the new crew member the ropes! (Andrew has now crewed several times, and has learned a lot about our system's setup).

While we set up the basket, Andrew wanders around to talk to some of the other crew and pilots he knows, and takes a few pictures. Here are Robert and Mike, "outstanding in the field." I'm guessing Mike is pointing out the pibal, a helium-filled party balloon released so we can get a look at what the wind is doing at various altitudes before we take off.

The surface wind is light and variable, and the balloons leave Panthorn Park in several different directions.

The first picture is taken as we climb out of Panthorn Park.

In the second, Tom Murphy drifts a little to our north.

Finally, we look behind us to get this picture of Bob Sommer in "Topper", Mike Bollea, Rob Metz and Mick Murphy against Mount Southington in the background.

I liked this shot because you can see the moon above and to the left of Rob Metz, and Mick Murphy to his right and a bit below. Once again, we're looking behind us, to the west.
Santo is a bit ahead of us, flying Matt's Firefly 7 again this morning. Because this is peak leaf-viewing season, several of the local commercial pilots are flying passengers for Berkshire Balloons this morning.

Today is a special anniversary for me. One year ago today was my first of many training flights with Santo. If anyone had told me that, just one year later, I'd be flying my own balloon, I'd have finished my training and gotten my private pilot certificate, I'd have laughed pretty hard. I've said it before, but thanks again, Santo!

After a while it becomes apparent that there are two fairly well-defined directions available: from the northwest at altitude, and lower down from the southwest.

About 30 minutes into the flight, I decide to try to navigate to the same large field where I have landed once before in July. Both Robert and Santo are doing the same thing. I am southwest of the field at this point, so I need to ascend, drift to the southeast, then descend and move to the northeast. In other words, I have to make a V-shaped approach, flying away from my chosen field on the "downward" leg of the V (see the GPS track below; the big field is in the lower left corner of that empty area in the upper right part of the map). After I descend to turn back toward the northeast, I realize that my direction has more east in it now than I'd expected; it becomes clear after a while that I won't make it into the field I've been planning on.

We've been working on more-or-less the same track as Matt, pictured here making his landing approach. He lands before us, just a little to the northeast of our landing site.

The second picture is one of those "can't pass it up" shots: "Big Green" casts a shadow on the brilliant foliage.

Just to the northeast of the big field, where Robert and Santo have now landed, is a nice new neighborhood with large yards and a wide, quiet access road with no powerlines, so I begin an approach there. I'm approaching perpendicular to a line of trees, beyond which is a narrow open area, the neighborhood access road, and the front lawns of the houses. One of the trees is much taller than the others and, wouldn't you know it, is directly in my path. Rather than begin a climb to clear the tree, and have to make a steep fast descent, I allow the basket to go through the top of the tree, which temporarily stops us, and allows us, as we slide past, to make a gentle slow final approach. After clearing the trees, I call out to the homeowners, several of whom are out on their front porches (one of them with a video camera!), and ask for permission to land on their front yard, and we get permission from both of the closest ones. We touch down gently on the road, just beside one of the driveways, right by the property line between two houses.

Carlos and Jim have been pulled over, knowing I was working on that original field, until just a few minutes ago when it became clear I would have to fly on. Once the balloon is stable on the ground, I pick up the radio to give them our precise final position, only to see them wave to us as they drive into the neighborhood. We deflate and streamer the balloon on the road, working quickly so as not to block access for more than a couple of minutes. Again today there are many children, all full of questions and eager to help us pack up, and sit and jump on our envelope bag after we've stuffed "Big Green" in there. We return to Panthorn Park to bring Carlos to his car, and then join many of the other balloonists for breakfast.

Our GPS ground track from today's flight. We actually traveled 5.5 miles, although due to the zig-zag flight track, we landed only 3.5 miles away from our launch site.

The first few minutes of the track are missing (Panthorn Park is on the west side of I-84). I forgot to put up the GPS antenna so it didn't acquire satellites, and I just turned it off and back on again (with the antenna up this time) when I realized what had happened.

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