194 Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival

The last day of the Festival

was a blast! It seemed to take forever for the balloons to get off and I waited an additional ten minutes for the Eveready Bunny who should have been named the “never ready bunny”, but eventually it lifted off and Marv. (the safety officer) gave me the thumbs up. The wind was south west so I set up into the wind, pointing to the tree line. The plan worked…I inflated the wing and turned south to line up with the runway. As soon as I was in line, the wing looked good, I hammered the throttle and made a nice clean take off. When I got to the park entrance road I was about 100ft AGL…not great but enough to initiate a hard turn to the right. I did a climbing spiral for several hundred feet and took off to chase the balloons. I crossed Wadsworth and caught up with the pack by the two holding ponds at the south of Chatfield. Everyone except for one lone wolf was skimming the earth, probably trying to collect tags to win the competition. The lone wolf was hanging at about 2000 ft AGL. It was the event organizer and I saw him 45 minutes later heading back toward the port. I was amazed how he was able to come back when everyone else was miles downwind.

I took a few pictures and flew by the CSYC gang who had rafted up to watch the ascension. After 35 or so minutes I returned to the port and tried to land. I was told not to overfly the road so I had to come in from the north east and make a hard turn to final. The way that it slopes down was causing me to come in too high and so rather than land beyond the barrier I choose to set down north of the festival.

I rolled the buggy back to the festival and chatted with Matt and Jerry about meeting some morning to fly at Red Rocks. We said our goodbyes and then Kevin and his family met me at the Marina for a light wind sail.

Balloon Festival 08 Media Day

Slept out on the boat last night. Got up at 5 and was at the Port in plenty of time to find a set up and get to the pilots briefing at 6. I was warmly greeted by Jim Hill the safety officer who introduced me to the FAA guy.
The launch was kinda downwind in very light breeze. I had to dodge a truck and climb out between a bunch of trees but it was all good. John Sieb flew all the way from South Park.
I Didn’t get very close to the Balloons but stayed clear and watched John fly low all the way up into the foothills. The FAA guy and RMBF safety officer let me get off during the mass launch. Later I saw the FAA guy and he had no complaints.
The dinner is tonight at 6pm which is great because I will be able to attend. I thought I was going to miss it due to my sister’s 50 b-day party. Three pilots will be comming up from the Springs and I look foreward to spending some time with them.


192 was a morning flight Aug 20th. Chip was going to meet me but had some issue with his reserve and didn’t make it. I put more air in the tires and the buggy accelerated much better, it was rough and the landing was really rough but it helps to reduce the rolling resistance when the field is bumpy. I let the trimmers out and enjoyed the performance of the 28m Eden III. This time I practiced flying lower and after twice getting into bumps to the west at 6300ft went back to the field and areas east. The surprise if the day was broken line on the starboard top cage. I do not think it was a prop strike. The string just broke, maybe I weakened it when I was trying to thread another line to mount the strobe. This afternoon after work before the race I restrung it with 1000lb deep sea line. Much better than factory.

#190 & #191

Simms….70 degrees….light breeze from ENE shifting to NE under light cloud cover

Marek had a hard time making up his mind and when he did decide to fly, he “tweaked his back on a very very long run out. I flew for awhile 15 -20 minutes and landed shortly after I saw Marek land. He was being chatted up by some guy that stopped to watch. Seemed like an OK guy ….Biker”.
After a few minutes of chat the wind had come down to almost nothing so I decided to go up again. The wing came up fine but the buggy was having a hard time getting started, I had to do a Fred Flintstone to get it started but I was too late the glider unloaded and did a frontal. I aborted but the wing came down nicely behind and from the pressure on the risers it felt evenly spread so I grabbed the “A”s” and relaunched without even getting out of my seat. Marek said it looked great. Next time I fly Simms I’ll add a little air to the tires and see if that helps the buggy get started
It was a beautiful flight! Just a few mild bumps to keep me honest.I don’t know why but I didn’t let the trimmers out for the whole flight. Looking back I wished I had because I was paying allot of attention to the way the glider didn’t want to turn into the wind. If I’d just thought about it I could have eased the trim and it would have been a nice sporty ride. But…it was slow and mushy and sometimes mushy is OK.
I spent the last 15 minutes doing touch and goes and flying low and slow. I think I circled the field 5 times before I decided to land. Once in awhile the conditions are right to go to the end of the field and float 2 or 3 feet above the earth all the way to the end.
I learned a good trick on landing. I came in cross the wind about 20 degrees and as soon as I touched down I turned into the wind and used brake to keep the wing turning with me. It will be handy when the LZ is not lined up perfectly for an into the wind approach.

#188 & # 189 Monument Valley

I should have stayed up longer but there was a strong wing from the West. Even with the 26m wing it took 30 minutes to fly back to the LZ from the entrance to the park. I was hanging over the Welcome center for a long long time. Not as nice a flight as the last time I was here …but no complaints. When I got back I hit the head and got out the 28 meter wing. I liked the way it felt this morning. Practiced touch and goes and basically floated around.

#187 Monument Valley Quick Abort

The drive from Saint George to Monument was a little over 5 hours. I decided to let the GPS pick the fastest route which ended up taking me through Zion National Park. Beautiful drive and amazing terrain but on Sat in August it was a bit of a traffic jam. I made the mistake of stopping at a tourist Rock shop and buying gifts for the family and store. Very cool stuff but almost non of it came from the area. I’ve seen the same inventory in gift shops and mineral shops all over the world. Ah Well. I did need the petrified shark teeth for awards durning the Commodores Ball. I finally got thru the park and arrived at Gouldings Trading Post about 5:30pm. After making arrangements I drove down to the airstrip and pulled out a wing.

The wind was blowing so I kited for 70 minutes before it came down enough to attempt a launch. Sometimes the wing would come up and hang there like an obedient puppy and other times one side would collapse and the wing might or might not be recovered. So…

I launched and decided almost immediately that it was time to land. The wind was popping me up and down slewing me to the right so I continued the turn and set down almost right where I has started. The Google image (dark Blue Line) shows very clearly the track bouncing around. I might have been able to climb into smoother air but I had not sent up any test balloons because I didn’t think the Navajo would appreciate it…so I really didn’t know if the air was going to get better or worse at altitude.

That night, I had dinner in the Lodge and said hello to a group of Italian families. It made me smile to think it had just been two months earler that Vivi and her family were doing the same thing with us in Riminni.

#185 & #186 Back to Saint George

Great Fun!

I got into Saint George about 5pm and it was blowing like hell. I decided it wasn’t going to be flyable and got into the Motel routine. Sure as heck by the time I’d had something to eat and was crawling into the hot tub…the wind had come down the clouds had parted and it was beautiful calm air. I smiled got into the tub and enjoyed a Utah classic sunset.

The road work is complete so we were able to get started 30 minutes earlier. This time we flew from the old airstrip that had been taken over by the RC club. Mark and I flew together for about 45 minutes. We come from the same school of Flying because we kept in touch but kept our distance. The air was calm and except for the one time I flew thru my own prop wash there wasn’t a bump. I ranged in a rectangle about 5 miles by 3 miles checking out the edge of the city a river and alfalfa field. The air strip is supposed to be reactivated sometime in the next couple of years but I have a feeling that they will let us keep flying if Mark plays his cards right.

During the second flight I did several touch and goes and practiced my low and slow, using lots of power and brakes. Very nice morning….

Flight #184 Las Vegas

Awesome Flight that I wasn’t sure I was going to get to take…

I found a housing development that had been put on hold by the housing crisis. The area was graded and there were fist sized rocks and some construction material to avoid but certainly not a show stopper. The dawn wind was a showstopper… there was no way I was going to be able to fly in this wind. So… I decided to go back and was ready to leave when the wind died to nothing. I don’t know why I was amazed, it’s pretty common for there to be a fresh breeze right at dawn. I think I had resolved to not fly and I was having a hard time getting psyched all over again. After launching 4 balloons and convincing myself there weren’t any crazy rotors coming off the tops …I turned back to the South end of the site.
I was confronted by the security guard but he was an ex PPC pilot and after pulling my chain a bit, said go for it, and chatted me up while I set the wing. The first take off was aborted when my wingtip got a little cravat and the second was entertaining because I had to pop the brakes to miss getting corn holed by a 24 inch piece of re bar sticking out of the earth.

I flew along the ridge line climbing along the way. There were some cool red rock formations that looked like some kind giant fungus …growing on the mountain.
The kicker was having a small private jet cross my path about 1000 feet in front and 200 feet below me. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be spooked. I turned away and climbed to avoid any chance of getting into his jet wash. Looking at the GPS track is apparent that he was following the slope of the foothills on a glide into LV International. I think we were both legal but he was sure flying low and fast. Next time I fly a major market …I’ll get and read the sectional.

Flight #182 & #183 Saint George Utah

Saint George Utah

Mark Lanthum hosted my flights. We met in front of the Motel district a little after 5am and I followed him out to the field. We had to take the back way (lots of country back roads) because they are working on the main water line. Thanks to GPS tracks I’ll be able to find it again because I was blindly following his tail lights most of the time.

The LZ is a big open area with lots of hard pack earth. Off to the NW about a half mile is an old landing strip that has been taken over by the local RC club. I did a short flight to check the 155 jet. After 15 minutes I landed and checked the plug. Thinking it was a little hot I tried the 160 and 165 which made the motor run terribly. So back to the 155 and it ran great for the 45 minute flight that followed. This is a great place. beautiful vistas and a huge area to practice the “low and slow.


Stefania was quick to jump out of bed at 5 am and we were at the field before 6. It was dead calm when we pulled in and 2 minutes later it was 10 mph from the west! Eventually the wind came down and I set-up …looking good with the new cage and the oh so sexy new simitar prop.

When I was reassembling the trike I set the thrust line a little higher than it was and it caused the wing to catch in the prop wash at the 10 O’Clock position. I didn’t reset but let the prop fill the wing and restarted without getting out of my seat. It looked bad but I was able to recover from the wing falling off to the right …so far that the tip almost touched the ground. Finally it stablized and I got in a nice 40 minute flight.

Very smooth and even flew with the foot steering while I took a few pictures. There is a big sign up that the property is available so it won’t be long before I’m looking for a new site.