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After all, if those guys had the guts to go out and fly passengers on a schedule in the primitive equipment of the day, surely we can stand up to some yahoo who wants to close down the county airport because he just moved in across the street and the noise is bothering his hamster.
(Rick Durden in The Pilot's Lounge No. 93)
 
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Event Report
Event Reports - Sun 'N Fun 2007

Saturday, April 21 (Part 1)
Hot-Air Balloon Race
Sun 'N Fun 2007
Created: 04/21/2007
Updated: 04/26/2007
Link(s): N/A
 
Article by Mike Whaley
 
Early Saturday morning (7am) the annual SNF ballooon race got off the ground. The object is to follow the lead balloon and try to land as close to their landing spot as possible. Since everyone's at the mercy of the wind, you cannot usually "overtake" another balloon as in other kinds of racing... although a quick launching process is part of the strategy. The real object of course isn't as much to win as to have a lot of fun enjoying this unique and beautiful sport. Our friend Ed Lamiere and his balloon "Wild Goose" were in the race this year, and Paul (also a balloon pilot) and Rick went along for a ride. The weather was nice and many balloons launched and recovered after flying a ways to the southwest.

Of course, there was the traditional champaign toast after landing. Here's an interesting bit of history you may not have known... the tradition of having champaign after a balloon flight dates all the way back to the sport's beginnings in 17th century France. Early balloonists, like those today, never knew where they would land until they got there. After a few incidents of irate, scared (and often superstitious) farmers and villagers coming out with pitchforks, torches, and who knows what else trying to attack these strange invaders from the heavens, the aeronauts hit upon the idea of bringing bottles of wine on each flight both to serve as a "peace offering" as well as to demonstrate that they were not extraterrestrials from another planet, but rather Monseur Pierre from the next village down the road. This helped the situation immensely (not to mention probably helped to induce folks to lend a hand in helping to gather up the balloon). Even though most people nowadays think it's really neat and exciting to have a balloon land in their field, and the welcoming committee is generally armed with sandwiches and picture phones rather than sharpened farm implements, the champaign toast at the conclusion of a successful flight remains an important ballooning tradition!


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One nice thing about ballooning... the entire aircraft can be transported on the back of a van, truck, or on a small trailer.  
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Maybe Diane is having a little too much fun with that burner...  
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The inside of the basket.  
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Rick and Paul hold the mouth of the balloon open so the fan can blow air in to inflate the envelope.  
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A balloon is a LOT bigger in volume than most folks realize. It takes a while for the envelope to inflate.  
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Ballooning begins by inflating their balloons with small gas-powered fans. The burners aren't lit up until the envelope is nearly fully inflated.  
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There are few things more tranquil and beautiful than an early-morning balloon launch.  
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Liftoff! This view is looking to the southwest... downwind.  
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The Yellowbird and other acro planes sit in the IAC display area while their distant, lighter-than-air cousins float gracefully past overhead.  
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There's a lot of stuff at SNF!  
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Can you find the Steen Aero tent?  
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Paul (left) and Ed smile for the camera. Paul is also a rated balloon pilot, but didn't bring his balloon to SNF this year.  
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Generally, if you're at the same altitude as other nearby balloons, you will be sharing fairly similar wind currents. Rising or descending into different winds is the only means of steering available to a balloon, although this can be more effective than you might think.  
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Ballooning is a unique experience... there's little wind (since you're being carried along by it) and except for the noise of the burner, it's very quiet and peaceful.  
projectlog_00162_04776_thumb___snf_2007-04-21_sat_rick_balloon_flight_movie_02_thumb.jpg
Click to open Main file:
projec ... ck_balloon_flight_movie_02.avi
Here's a movie showing what it's like to skim along in a balloon.
LARGE FILE WARNING: 1.5 MB movie file (.AVI format) - not recommended on dial-up Internet connections.
 
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Rick isn't really a hot-headed kind of guy.  
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Hey guys, wait up!  
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Being the least maneuverable aircraft in the sky, a balloon has the right-of-way over all other types of aircraft. It's pretty unlikely that anyone would hit one... it's not like they're hard to see or avoid!  
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There's a certain sense of awe that goes along with floating slowly through the ether.  
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The view downwards.  
projectlog_00162_04777_thumb___snf_2007-04-21_sat_rick_balloon_flight_movie_04_thumb.jpg
Click to open Main file:
projec ... ck_balloon_flight_movie_04.avi
This movie demonstrates how quiet it is... note how clearly you can hear birds singing!
LARGE FILE WARNING: 4.3 MB movie file (.AVI format) - not recommended on dial-up Internet connections.
 
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Looks like the landing area is coming up.  
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The big X is from the first balloon. This is the target to try to land near.  
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The chase crews have kept up with their balloons. Some folks who are afraid of heights and refuse to fly love to chase balloons.  
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Polk county is famous for it's phosphate mining industry. Looks like we're landing in a mine.  
projectlog_00162_04778_thumb___snf_2007-04-21_sat_rick_balloon_flight_movie_06_thumb.jpg
Click to open Main file:
projec ... ck_balloon_flight_movie_06.avi
Ever tried to make a cell call from inside a small airplane in flight?
LARGE FILE WARNING: 5.2 MB movie file (.AVI format) - not recommended on dial-up Internet connections.
 
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Ahh, the fun part... packing everything back up.  
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Rick makes a call while looking at a dragline. This machine is used to scoop up massive amounts of earth in the phosphate mine. Generally they're electric powered and they're rather large... the main part of this one (which is typical) is probably about the size of a football field!  
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They're not being lazy, they're squishing the air out of the envelope so it will fit into the van better.  
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After the envelope bag, the basket is put onto the back of the van and it's off for some breakfast and champaign!  
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Yup... it's the original Wild Goose Chase!  
 

Other entries in this series:
     Sunday, April 15    April 15, 2007
     Monday, April 16    April 16, 2007
     Tuesday, April 17    April 17, 2007
     Wednesday, April 18    April 18, 2007
     Thursday, April 19    April 19, 2007
     Friday, April 20    April 20, 2007
      » Saturday, April 21 (Part 1)    April 21, 2007
     Saturday, April 21 (Part 2)    April 21, 2007
     Sunday, April 22    April 22, 2007
     Monday, April 23    April 23, 2007
     Wednesday, April 25    April 25, 2007

If you have any additions or corrections to this item, please let us know.

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