Flag City Balloon Fest
Findlay, Ohio
August 26, 2005


Findlay Ohio is a town of about forty-thousand people, located out in farm country about two hours south of Cleveland. It's the corporate headquarters of Marathon Oil, located in what was once an important area for oil and natural gas production. Findlay acquired the title of "Flag City USA" in recognition of its huge flag displays on Flag Day, which began in the 1960's. The "Flag City USA" designation was made official by an act of Congress, House Joint Resolution #1003 introduced by Rep. Tennyson Geyer on May 7, 1974.


The Flag City Balloon Fest in Findlay Ohio was originally scheduled to be the Ohio flight for States of Enlightenment in 2004. Unfortunately, the entire event was rained out that year, and my flight in Ashland Ohio in July 2005 became the Ohio States of Enlightenment flight. However, Balloon Fest organizer Dan Clinger was kind enough to invite me back to Findlay anyway in August 2005.

I was billed in the festival program as "Daredevil Balloonist", which I guess has more marketing pizazz than "Unusual but Safety-Conscious Balloonist".


For this flight, I was ably assisted by my Ohio-based crew chiefs, Phil and Debbie Rutan. We were joined by Julia Kelbling and her crew from Story House Productions, a German TV production company, who were shooting a segment for the German program "Wunderwelt Wissen" (Wonderworld of Science). I'm not sure what connection exists between what I do and science, the principle that lighter-than-air gases provide lift having been established back in the 1700's -- but that's TV for you. The air-to-air footage was taken from a hot-air balloon piloted by Phil Clinger (event Balloonmeister, and Dan Clinger's son). The video footage below was provided courtesy of Story House Productions, as edited by me. This is my first flight documented entirely in video.


Click on Photos to View Video


Inflation (6.3 MB): The inflation got off to a slow start, with two out of the requested fifteen volunteers showing up at the appointed time. Dan Clinger rode around in his golf cart rounding people up, and we eventually had enough people to get started. We were near some trees, which initially provided some wind protection, but then the wind shifted to the south and picked up, bouncing the balloons around quite a bit. It was too windy to safely fly at that point, but it was forecast to calm down (or more accurately, it was not forecast to get this windy in the first place), so we kept inflating.

Launch (5.8 MB): The wind slowed down a little as launch time approached. It was still a bit more wind than I usually fly the cluster balloon in, and I was concerned about being dragged around at landing if it picked up again.. But there was a lot of open farmland just outside town, and Debbie was a very experienced chase driver, who could probably get to my landing spot ahead of me. Or so I told myself, anyway.... Although rationally you'd like to take off sedately so you can land safely in the same fashion, there's something exciting about all the balloons tugging at you in the breeze, until the crew releases your tether and lets the wind carry you away....

Flight and Chase (3.5 MB): I floated off to the north, over Findlay, and out into the farm country beyond, with Debbie and Brad in hot pursuit.

For all you FAR fans out there: prior to the flight, I spoke with the FAA inspector assigned to the festival. I explained that I was doing a exhibition flight, operating under FAR Part 103. He told me to "observe minimum safe altitudes under the waiver" -- which is something less than "Go now, with my blessing" but to me, based on years of doing this, means that he will not try to violate me unless something bad happens, in which case I'm on my own. Given how ambiguous the FARs are regarding "congested" and "densely populated" areas, and how limited the precedents are for operations of my type, I can live with that.

Landing (4.8 MB): I identified an unplanted area between farm fields, and set up a gradual descent. On the radio, I directed Debbie out ahead of me, up the road to a farmhouse and out a dirt road to the intended spot. At this point, the cameraman somehow went flying out of the back of my truck. He was unharmed, but the camera was broken, so my perfect landing went unrecorded.

After that, Julia the TV producer sent the cameraman to find the hot-air balloon with the other cameraman, which had landed on the next farm over, so that they would have a working camera. When the two cameramen showed up half an hour later, they asked me to do a brief hop so they could film my "landing". I misjudged and jumped much too high, and had to cut away a lot of balloons to get down before I was blown into a bean field -- so the resulting landing was not nearly as elegant as the real landing, but that's what is in the video. That's TV for you.


Celebration XXXI

Crew Chiefs: Phil and Debbie Rutan

Video courtesy of Story House Productions (Julia Kelbling, segment producer)

Music by Sven Hansen, produced by Harmony Sound Design, Holland (www.free-floating.com)

Thanks to Flag City Balloon Fest (Dan and Phil Clinger), chase crew volunteers (Brad Rutan, Scott Harden, Jennifer Macke), inflation volunteers.

Special thanks to Linde Gas LLC (Jim Simpson), official specialty gas supplier to the Flag City Balloonfest











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