Celebraton Seven

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)It had been over a year since I had flown with helium balloons -- not out of any conscious decision on my part, but due to the cancellation of one event I was to have flown in, and the heartbreaking cancellation of another planned flight due to a sudden gusty winds, after half the balloons had been inflated. 

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)As one of the world's only regular practitioners of this sport, I felt bad about not flying.  Aside from being something I personally love to do, cluster ballooning is my unique contribution to the human experience -- flying with clusters of helium-filled balloons is a part of life on Planet Earth because I do it.  I suppose the man I saw on TV who can drink milk and shoot it quite accurately out of his nose may feel much the same way about what he does -- if so, we're both very sincere, although I'd vote for my activity on aesthetic grounds.  HM00073_1.wmf (568 bytes)

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes) With this in mind, I began planning a cluster flight for March 2001.   Unfortunately, March may not be the best month to schedule a cluster balloon flight, even in Southern California -- and the winter had been an unusually rainy one.   The flight was postponed on March 3 (due to predicted rain that never materialized) and again on March 10 (due to rain and mud).  Heading into the third attempt, I was getting pretty frazzled.  Over the course of the week before, March 17 was forecast to be sunny, rainy, cloudy, windy or foggy -- depending on when you looked at the forecast.  However, after much anxiety, I did not cancel -- my crew had been very understanding about all the rescheduling, but I didn't want to ask them to change all their weekend plans for yet another week.  So I hoped that the forecast Santa Ana winds from the east and the also-forecast marine layer fog and low clouds rolling in the from coast would cancel out in Temecula -- and, for a St. Patrick's Day miracle, they did.

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes) We began inflating the balloons at 4 AM.  Celebration VII consisted of eighty red, white and blue balloons, in a mix of five- and seven-foot sizes.  We finished inflating the balloons at around dawn.   C7 Inflate 00.jpg (19902 bytes)
C7 Inflate 01.jpg (25054 bytes) Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes) My crew began attaching the balloons to my harness.  But for this flight, I had something new planned. 
Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)I had my crew attach a dozen balloons to my legs at the feet and knees, and took the strings to a bunch of balloons in each hand.    

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)The sensation was totally different from just sitting in the harness.  Tilted slightly forward with my legs behind me and my arms spread wide, I felt like a bird! 

C7 Inflate 04.jpg (10271 bytes)
C7 Inflate 02.jpg (21766 bytes)
 

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)My friend, noted educator Ernie Hartt, had my hot-air balloon inflated and waiting in the yard next door, on the other side of some trees.   We waited on the ground for some light fog to clear. 

C7 Inflate 03.jpg (17033 bytes)

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Gradually, the mistiness in the air gave way to morning sun.  We heard on the radio from several other balloonists who had already launched from nearby sites; they reported acceptable visibility. 

Launch_01.jpg (25129 bytes)

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)

I radioed to Ernie to go ahead.  I could heard the roar of the burners as he put heat in the hot-air balloon.  "I'm up," he said.  At that signal, the crew pulled the pin from my quick-release.

First slowly, then faster and faster, I began to ascend.

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

 

 Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

The sensation of the balloons lifting me by my outspread arms and legs was amazing.

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

C7 Launch 02a.jpg (16942 bytes)

C7 Launch 04.jpg (14081 bytes)

 Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)


It was a weird, totally free feeling.

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

C7 Launch 03.jpg (14036 bytes)

 

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

C7 Launch 06.jpg (28428 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

Up I went!

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

C7 Launch 06a.jpg (18192 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

 

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Ernie paced me in the hot-air balloon.  We took turns passing each other as we made our way up into the sky over the hazy valley.

C7 Flight 02.jpg (6420 bytes)

 

C7 Flight 01a.jpg (23342 bytes)

C7 Flight 06.jpg (5689 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

C7 Flight 04.jpg (4286 bytes)

C7 Flight 03.jpg (18668 bytes)

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Finally, at about 2,500 feet AGL, we rose up above the haze.  We could see the mountain-tops poked up through the white mist. It was a pretty sight.

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

C7 Flight 08.jpg (6278 bytes)

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)


Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

 

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)

C7 Flight 09.jpg (12267 bytes)

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)


Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)

 

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)After a calm, beautiful float at several thousand feet over the Temecula  valley, I descended and began looking for a place to land.  C7 Landing 00.jpg (9582 bytes)
C7 Landing 01.jpg (20134 bytes) Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)A large field beside the highway to the south looked good, but then I saw my chase vehicles parked along a street I was rapidly approaching.  I made a hasty change of plans, and burst some balloons to descend into a field beside one of the houses.  I bumped up against a tree, and threw my dropline down to crew, who pulled me down to the ground.
Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)With permission of the owner of the house, we then spent some time letting my crew get in the harness to jump around with the balloons and fly up on a tether.  With the permission of the  adults, we let the kids from the house try it too, and gave them some of the balloons. 
C7 Landing 03.jpg (10013 bytes) C7 Landing 04.jpg (16045 bytes) C7 Landing 05.jpg (6159 bytes) C7 Landing 02.jpg (7718 bytes)

 

Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)And so, after a year's hiatus, cluster ballooning was once again a part of life on Planet Earth.  It was wonderful, and my duty to broaden the range of the human experience was fulfilled.  I sure hope the milk- through-the-nose guy is practicing too.

Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Celebration Seven Crew

My thanks to these wonderful people for their patience and support:
Crew Chief and Chase Balloon Pilot: Ernie Hartt
Inflation Systems Design: Jerry Sebby
Chase Navigator: Dave Lynch
Inflation and Chase Crew: Jenny Wolf, Susan Dawson, Mike McWilliams, Robin McWilliams, Shari Ray Davis, Helen Quayle, Holly Galbraith, Rita McRill, Dean Ekdahl, Donnica Jones
Special thanks to Dean Ekdahl for use of the DAE Balloonport, and to Cameron Welding Supply in Temecula, California.  Photography by Susan Dawson, Shari Ray Davis, Holly Galbraith and John Ninomiya.

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)

C7 Sprite 3.gif (2962 bytes)

Three Balloons #3.gif (1039 bytes)Three Balloons #1gif.gif (1049 bytes)Three Balloons #2.gif (1026 bytes)

Home ] [Logbook]

Version 2.00