Archive for July, 2011

Recent Flights and Balloon Flying Weather into First Week of August.

Friday, July 29th, 2011

After a very busy and productive first 2/3’s of July, the bottom 1/3 of the month has not been so productive in producing flights. The weekend is busy, hopefully the flying weather will cooperate better than last weekend’s. Only flight during the week was on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning, I flew the Tobias family from CT who were vacationing in the area.

My flying schedule is full for this weekend, and the weather forecast looks promising, Next week, I have space available on most flights. The flying weather forecast looks best on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for flying during the week, at this time. Call or email me if you are interested in flying, I have space available.

Displaying a Lack of Experience

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Normally, I would be hesitant to publicly discuss a topic like this on my blog. But, we have had a surge of newly minted commercial pilots who are now flying paying passengers in the area. And, I’ve witnessed some flying their passengers in what would be considered less than safe conditions.
Now, I recognize that if you fly enough, unexpected things do come up that will test a pilots ability to safely deal with the situation. But, what I am seeing is more of a lack of caution on what risk they are willing to expose their passengers, on what are knowable hazards. Tho knowable, only if you know well enough and where to check, to make sure that you are eliminating certain risk before you fly your passengers, who are trusting and paying you, to provide a safe and risk-less an experience as possible.
These same ride operators proclaim on their web sites that “safety is their number one priority” and that they are “commercially certified by the FAA”. But saying and doing are two different things, plus the FAA only certifies that a pilot meets their minimum standards, not maximum! You can become commercially certified with only 35 hours of flight experience and 6 flights with an instructor, not much.
It could be that they just don’t know any better, I don’t know. Possibly their flight training lacked an emphasis on this. It also could be, that they just lack enough experience to realize the consequences of what can be considered high risk flying. And by high risk, I’m talking about being willing to fly passengers with-in a few miles of weather that can negatively affect your flight. Weather that is not safe for an aircraft like a hot air balloon which has no ability to steer away from trouble.
It also could be, that a lot of the experience these pilots have been exposed to in their short flying career, has been at balloon festivals. Balloon festival flying usually brings significant pressure on a pilot to perform/fly by an event promoter who has a considerable investment wrapped-up in his balloon event. These festivals typically rely on balloons being in the air to generate the revenue they need to make expenses and hopefully turn a profit. And, at a number of these events, any payment the pilot is expecting from participation requires flying, even in marginal conditions.
Years ago, back in the 70’s at a safety seminar, I remember the presenter (Don Piccard) telling us that the monkey does not pay P.T.Barnum to perform in his circus, so why are so many pilots willing to pay to perform at a promoters balloon event? He was talking to us about being willing to accept a higher than normal level of risk as a condition to participate at a promoters balloon festival.


Recent Balloon Rides and Weather for the last Week of July

Monday, July 25th, 2011

This past week was not the most productive flying week for me in July. The only flight was on Friday morning. I chose not to do afternoon flights this week due to the heat and humidity, and the weekend didn’t bring conditions suitable to fly my customers. I did notice that some of our newly minted commercial pilots did fly their passengers on Saturday morning with rain and storms just on the southern edge of our flight area most of the morning. More on that later. Friday morning brought us decent, but hot flying conditions, so I could fly my customers who were visiting from Bogota, Columbia. They included a flight with us in their itinerary while in the states.

This is Jose Martinez and his wife Maria and son Juan on the flight.

An apres flight photo of a somewhat windy landing, with the balloon nicely laid-out by the wind

The weather forecast for this week offers a some good flying weather mid week, being wrapped by rain at the beginning and the end of the week. The flying weather should then improve for the last weekend of the month, and then on to August. How the time does fly bye. It will be the fall flying season before you know it, so, our fall flyers may want to get their reservations in soon. Our fall season will be here before you know it.

Weekend Flyers and Flying Weather for the Week of 7/18

Monday, July 18th, 2011

It was truly a beautiful summer weekend with clear skies, nice temps and low humidity, plus good flying conditions. To finish up posting my riders for the weekend –

On Saturday evening, I flew Ellen and Paul. Ellen is holding a picture of friends who arranged this flight for them as a gift ride with us.

On Sunday morning, I flew Guido and Paul. Sunday AM was the last flight for the weekend, as the surface winds stayed up due to the thermal heating from the warm afternoon sun. A beautiful day to be vacationing in our area, but not for doing an afternoon flight in a hot air balloon.

Today, Monday the 18th is bringing what looks like numerous storms which appear to be coming in waves today, into the early evening. The forecast weather should clear for Tuesday and remain summery for the balance of the week. After Tuesday, the heat and humidity will continue to build to the point of being a heat wave – 3 successive days of temps in the 90s. Looks like we get a frontal passage sometime late Thursday/early Friday, just in time to clear and drop the humidity and temps a bit for the coming weekend. I have space available on a number of flights this week, so call or email me if you want to fly! Mornings will be the best bet with the HHH weather.

Recent Hot Air Balloon Rides

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

We have been getting some decent weather this month for flying. It is a definite improvement from all the rain we got during our Spring flying season. Now to catch-up on some of our recent flights –

On Wednesday morning we flew Sara and Jeff, which was Sara's birthday.

Next up, on Friday morning we flew 2 couples. This is John And Maureen from Lake George

Our other Friday morning couple is Daryl and Jan. They hail from Valdosta GA

On Friday evening, we flew Doug and Inga from Scotia who were celebrating an anniversary.

This morning, Saturday the 16th, I flew Ken and Joe from the Baltimore area.

There are more flights to come this weekend, as our flight weather should hold through tonight and at least Sunday morning, if not right through Monday morning. It’s a beautiful summer weekend for folks in the area for vacation. And, as just a hint on what we’re expecting for next week’s weather, HHH summer weather is on the way!

A Trip down Hot Air Ballooning Memory Lane

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I have some spare time and had been wanting to do this for some time, post some of the things that I’ve done over the years associated with my career with hot air balloons. I took my first ride back in 1973 with some guys from Dutton MI who came to the first Adirondack Balloon Festival that was held locally at Adirondack Community College. They gave me a ride in return for helping them out crewing since none of the Michigan guys knew anything about local area driving. It went from there…. I have saved in my photo file some pics from a Woody Allen movie project I was involved with back in the fall of 1979. I have a copy of my employment agreement as a “Day Player” which gave me the part of “Balloonist #1” for the “Woody Allen Fall Project” paying $225 per day (as a reference for movie pay, the 100s of extras for my part in the film were paid $50/day). My part was filmed at the Planting Fields Arboretum near Glen Cove LI.

In this first pic, I’m getting fitted in my fliers costume for my scene. Nice duds huh?

In thisĀ  photo are the 3 of us in our outfits who were there to fly an identical looking balloon for this particular scene. Myself, Gary Brady from Sherbrook PQ (at that time, now Florida I believe), and Chuck Erhler from Lexington KY.

This next shot was me doing a part that never made it into the movie. I was actually hung by a crane, simulating a balloon in flight. The lights strung around the balloon basket were powered by a gas generator. There was no such thing as miniaturization back then. The generator took up most of the room in the basket, leaving only room for 1-10 gal tank of fuel and the pilot. More on that later.

This last pic is a shot of the 3 balloons in flight. We were originally hired for 2 or 3 days and a rain date, and ended up down there for a month and half – Woody is very particular about everything with his shooting of scenes for his movies. For the time we were there, we only actually flew I think 3 times. The rest of the time, we just drove all around Long Island and went into NYC for something to do. This scene also had around 100 or so extras, plus support staff that were bussed out from NYC every day, except weekends naturally. Because of the shot above, I was invited to participate in an interior shoot that was set-up in a Bronx studio during the winter. This scene also never made it into the movie. All the major principals of the movie were in this particular sceneĀ  that took 5 days to set-up and shoot. Hey, it’s Hollywood-I guess??

On one of the 3 flights we actually did, I almost ended up heading out over Long Island Sound with only 10 gallons of fuel on board, remember that generator took up most of the room. And, probably just enough fuel to get far enough out in the Sound to be fish food. The field where the flight scene was set up, was a decent size for what was needed, including us-if the winds were calm-which they never were when the light was right for his shot. For the shot, we had to shoot up to a staggered altitude, lowest balloon maybe 100 feet, next 15o feet, and next, me, 200 feet or so, then immediately shoot an approach to land in the same field. Great idea for the film, except, every time we flew and got above the tree line, the wind was fairly strong. And on this one flight, I tried to shoot my approach to land but had to bail as I ran out of room to land in the same field, unless I wanted to pile into the extra’s tent like one of the other pilots did. So off I went at tree-top level looking for some room to land. Let me tell you, there are a lot of trees on the north shore of Long Island in the area we were operating. I kept looking for something, and the only thing I saw coming up was the water of Long Island Sound, knowing I did not have enough fuel to cross to CT, making a plan to try to land as close to the shore as possible. Fortunately, I came across a small hole in the trees and dropped straight down into someone’s back yard with the balloon. The movie crew had a van following me on the ground, and as I landed, quickly packed the balloon into the van and whisked me away. I remember a young girl and her mother watching from their back stoop and all I could do is wave as they took me back to the movie set. Woody is very secretive about his movies, guess it was the reason it was called “The Fall Project” rather than it’s real name, “Stardust Memories”. Rent the video, I still get a royalty check from the movie:-))

Recent Hot Air Balloon Rides and Weather Forecast into the Weekend

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

We had a decent run of good flying weather at the end of last week and into the weekend. Coming up for this week, other than some weather forecast issues for Tuesday and Wednesday, the flying weather looks pretty good right into the coming weekend. I have a few spaces still available, so call or email if interested in flying.

Now for our recent hot air balloon rides, we were able to get 3 flights in over the weekend. On Saturday evening, I flew flew a young couple from the Troy area that got engaged on the flight.

Josh proposed to Kate

The Ring!

Next up on Sunday morning, was a family from Chicago that that stopped to fly with me, on their way home after spending a week up in Lake Placid for a week long Can-Am hockey camp for son Reed.

The Martin Family aloft above beautiful Washington County

The last flight for the weekend on Sunday evening, I flew Mack and Sue from the Slingerlands area who spent the early part of the day kayaking on the Hudson River.

Sue and Mack up over the rural village of Argyle

Recent Hot Air Balloon Rides and Weather Outlook into Next Week

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Since the 4th Holiday, we’ve had both good and bad flying weather days. It pretty much has been one good day to fly, and one day to get the lawn and veggy garden watered. Other than overnight tonight into Saturday morning, and late Monday into Tuesday, the forecast is looking pretty good both for doing some flying and for folks who are coming to the area for some vacation-time.

On Saturday evening, I flew the Cummings family on a beautiful, bright blue sky evening.

On Tuesday, Charlie took his granddaughter Erika up on another nice evening to be flying.

On Friday morning, I took up 3 generations of Patsy Schulenberg's family - mom Patsy, granddaughter Lisa, and daughter Jeannette.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Flying Weather for the Week of 7/5

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The flying forecast for this week, other than on Wednesday, looks good right through the weekend. Hopefully, the forecast will pan-out to what it’s advertised. We could use some dry-time after all the rain we received since last week and over the 4th Holiday weekend. I have space available for passengers during this time period, so call if you want to fly. 518 793-6342.

Hot Air Balloon Flights for the Week

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

As far as flying weather goes for this year, it’s been a fair week for getting some flights done. Monday wasn’t too bad a day, but a lack of wind made for a couple of canceled flights.

A recent flight.

Flew Ray and Pat on Tuesday morning, up over Argyle.

Then it rained late in the day, heavy rain and big thunder to add to our rainfall total so far this flying season. The next couple of days were not flyable until we got to Friday. The weather going into the 4th Holiday weekend offers some opportunities for flying.

The Neumann Family on Friday morning.

Ron took his grandson Ryan up for a ride on Friday afternoon. Here's a look at the interior of our hot air balloon basket. It offers a level of comfort you generally don't find on a balloon flight. It's first class all the way!

A view of the underside of our balloon while in flight.

Coming in for a landing, followed close behind by another balloon on Friday.

That’s it for now. We didn’t fly on Saturday morning due to fog and a lack of wind. Sometimes little to no wind is more of a problem that a lot of wind, plus it makes for a boring flight since you don’t go anywhere. I’m not in the business to offer customers a boring experience. It should be good for our flight tonight, then more rain late tonight and for Sunday. Hopefully, it won’t be another hard rainer. The 4th may be ok for flying as should Tuesday and early Wednesday before the next weather system shuts us down until at least Friday.