December 30, 1997
Six months later, I was back in Temecula California for my next helium balloon adventure. My objective for this flight was to continue refining my flying technique with the synthetic latex balloons. Although my last flight had been surprising in many ways, I felt that I could control the balloon cluster well enough to fly safely in Temecula, a suburban/rural area where many hot-air balloonists fly.
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We set up again in the front yard of Dean Ekdahl, a local hot-air balloonist who lived east of Temecula. Ernie Hartt was my crew chief, and a number of our hot-air balloonist friends came out to help.
As I approached 5500 ft above sea level (about 4000 feet above the ground at launch) I decided it was time to level out. Having learned my lesson about the reliability of pellet guns, I pulled down a balloon and burst it with a knife. My rate of climb dropped but did not level out, so I burst another, which was enough to put me in level flight.
I leveled out a four or five hundred feet by dropping some water ballast, and began looking for a place to land. I was still on the outskirts of Murrieta, in an area with some houses, but a generous number of open fields and empty lots.