August 17, 2011

In 2011, I was invited to fly again in L’International de Montgolfières de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec.

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I once again enjoyed the many unique pleasures of Quebec. One of my favorites was poutine: french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. It’s commonly available at fast food outlets, and setting aside fear of premature cardiovascular death, it’s pretty wonderful.

My regular crew chiefs all had schedule conflicts making them unavailable for the trip. Luckily, Jacques Côté, who had helped with my 2008 flight as a festival volunteer, offered to fill in. He also brought along his son, a policeman, which is always helpful in an activity where contact with law enforcement sometimes occurs.

The flight was scheduled for the afternoon. The weather on day of the flight was a bit hazy but good. The festival had provided a tent, to provide some protection from the wind for my inflation.

Valerie Doucet, the coordonnatrice aux montgolfières, came by to check on me. After inviting me to fly there again, she had helped work through all the logistics of my flight, as well as the coordination of regulatory permission. Transport Canada is fairly strict in its regulation of ballooning -- my requests to fly elsewhere in Canada had all met with much lugubrious shaking of heads by aviation officials. As we had in 2008, we relied again on a regulatory loophole that allows senior provincial authorities to waive Canadian federal rules – which, being from Quebec, they had some willingness to consider.

Soon the inflation of the balloons was complete. The crew began attaching the balloons together.
I got into my harness.
Crew walked me from my inflation area out onto the launch field.
I conferred with the festival launch officials, who cleared me for take-off....
And off I went.

I rose up over the festival launch field.
The wind carried me over the city, and across the river.

The rest of the hot-air balloons lifted off and crossed the river as well.

The city gave way to green farmland.

My chase crew followed me out into the countryside.

As sunset approached, I began my descent over the corn fields.
I could see Jacques and my chase crew waiting for me near some farm buildings at the edge of the corn. I had a good line towards them.
Right near the ground, the wind shifted slightly and began taking back out over the corn.
I threw my drop-line, and crew used it to pull me to a nice grassy spot.
Spectators arrived to watch. We gave away some of the balloons as souvenirs.

Célébration Deux

Crew Chief: Jacques Côté

Special Thanks to: Internationale de Montgolefieres de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Valerie Doucet, Marjorie Walters, inflation crew volunteers.

Photography: Julien Saguez, Carlos Kebe, Marjorie Walters, John Ninomiya

Videography: Bob Avon

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