Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Once in a lifetime Rick -- RIDEs in the Competition Balloon Event!

We arrived at our balloon site (spot U7) this morning as usual (5:45am) and were greeted with perfect weather. Everyone was eagerly looking forward to flying today and to a special competitive event. The first balloons to launch were the Dawn Patrol balloons which were inflated near us and are spectacular as they fly into the dark skies.

Rich and Brad, our pilots, returned from the pilot meeting and let us know what would be happening today. Most of the balloons (about 400) would go to a remote field, launch, and then try to fly over the main spectator area field where the balloon pilots try to fly over specific targets and drop a beanbag as close to the target as possible.

Given the very light winds, our team strategized as to where to position the balloon for the launch. While we were getting ready to launch, a couple hundred of balloons that were not competing launched at the main field (our "target") and made for a beautiful sight. You can see this sight in the third picture from the top.

Soon, it was approaching the 8:00am launch time and we inflated the balloon envelope. At that time, Rich asked if I would like to come along for a ride -- YES!! was my quick answer. I climbed into the basket and was joined by Brad and Rich, then we were ready to go. I was amazed at the smoothness of the flight as well as the quiet (except when the burner was fired). I was also really impressed at the number (literally hundreds) of balloons that were launching all around us and moving with us toward the target.

Rich did a great job of piloting us around, under, over and between other balloons as we made our way to to the target. We crossed the target area at about 5' high and made a direct "hit" on one target. This was a very challenging piloting effort and I really enjoyed watching Rick in action. The pictures near the bottom of this post show scenes in front, on the side and behind our balloon so you can get an idea how many balloons were around us (and these shots were made with NO camera zoom -- they were really that close!). In fact, we got bumped a couple times by other balloons with no problem.

Here is a picture of our balloon, the Euphoria in flight. What a great ride this is!

Finally, Rich piloted us to a great landing behind the balloon museum and we packed up the balloon for its next flight. You can see Rich (center), Brad and I are very happy with this flight!

1 comment:

LLThomas said...

Dear Rick,
What glorious pictures and what a thrill to ride in a balloon! You do such interesting things with Orinda and Cody. Enjoy your full-timing. Bunny