Indiana (Continued)


My second flight was scheduled for Saturday, the opening day of the Bloomington Balloon Fiesta. The wind was six mph or so when we arrived at the airport at 4 AM. This amount of wind isn't even noticeable for a lot of purposes, but for ballooning it's a fairly brisk. It's supposed to be dead calm at that time in the morning, so if it's already blowing then, you don't know what it will do later on. If it goes up to ten or fifteen mph, you can have trouble landing, since the balloon doesn't have brakes and will keep dragging along for a considerable distance when you land, potentially pulling you through barbed wire fences or into high voltage lines.

I walked the tarmac at the airport, getting a feel for the wind speed and consulted with Travis, the balloonmeister. I told him I thought I could fly in this, but I'd need the best local crew they could find me, because having crew there to meet me at landing might be crucial in this much wind.


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We proceeded with the inflation. Things went smoothly in the shelter of the Cook Aviation building, but when it was time to move up to where the spectators where beginning to assemble, it took several people to pull me along against the wind.


For this flight, I was experimenting with carrying some smaller, 3-foot balloons, to see if they would give me finer altitude control.


Travis had cancelled the competition due to wind, but was still encouraging all the pilots to fly. Thus far, only Bill Oliver had inflated his balloon, which was being rocked around a bit by the wind.


I had never taken off in this much wind before. I faced the direction that the wind would take me. The tie-down rope that normally attached two sand bags out in front of me ran out rather awkardly behind me between my legs. I adjusted my ballast until I seem reasonably buoyant, but I knew I was getting some "false lift" -- aerodynamic lift from wind flowing over the top of the cluster, that I would lose as soon as I accelerated to the speed of the wind. So, I unhooked a ballast bag to hand to crew if I need more lift to take off.


Ernie released my tie-down rope, and the balloons started to pull me forward. I jogged forward to keep from being dragged, and crew followed. As I had suspected, as I gained speed, I found that I was no longer positively buoyant. I handed off the ballast bag I had unhooked to one of the crew jogging along behind me. The balloons attached to my legs pulled my feet up off the ground behind me, and the bunches of balloons in each of my hands pulled me up. And off I went on my adventure.






Indiana (Continued) ]