Archive for the ‘My History in Ballooning’ Category

My Last Posting

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

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This will be my last posting. I am retiring from a career and love affair with hot air ballooning that started in the early 70’s with my first flight with Doug Mills and that group of crazies from Dutton, MI in their Piccard Stretch 6, N62US, “The Jolly Roger”.

Pic of the first Adirondack Balloon Fest from the Jolly Roger.

Pic I took of the first Adirondack Balloon Fest from the Jolly Roger @ ACC.

I have a nice young couple who are taking over my balloon ride service, that I know will be good stewards of my balloon flight legacy that began in the early 80’s with Adirondack Balloon Flights. So you folks who want to fly with ADKBF can be assured you will be in good hands. I want to give a special mention to the guys that flew with me back in the 70’s and are no longer flying; Fran Williams, Ron Fuller, Steve Maille and of course my old partner @ Adirondack Balloon Transit, LTD – Art Binley. Unfortunately, there also are a number of friends who are now flying in another world – Karen Rosenthal, Harry Repak, Sam Cally and Chuck O’Neil, just to name a few. It’s been a fun career.  I’ve met a lot of great people, had some fantastic times that I never would have experienced except for the opportunity presented because of an amazing flying machine, the hot air balloon.

In the beginning, 12/20/73, out in Dutton Michagan with Gordie Saunders in the Jolly Roger.

In the beginning, 12/20/73, out in Dutton Michagan with Gordie Saunders in the Jolly Roger.

The "Spirit of Glens Falls" comes to town and I get to be the pilot! Geez, not sure of the date, probably in '76/'77

The “Spirit of Glens Falls” comes to town and I get to be the pilot! Geez, not sure of the date, probably in ’76/’77

One of the very fun things I got to do, show-off having 1st child, Eric, in 1979. Afterward, flew over the city with the guy whose wife shared the room with Tani (he had his 4th daughter).

One of the very fun things I got to do, show-off having 1st child, Eric, in 1979. Afterward, flew over the city with the guy whose wife shared the room with Tani (he had his 4th daughter).

A very early flight back in 1978 with a very new Channel 10 meteorologist, Bob Kovachick, when we landed at Comstock Prison - max security! Made for good copy on his evening news!!

A very early flight back in 1978 with a very new Channel 10 meteorologist, Bob Kovachick, when we landed at Comstock Prison – max security! Made for good copy on his evening news!!

One of the many pleasures ballooning afforded me, meeting  Eddie Allen in 1974 out at the Nationals in Indianola Iowa, and becoming friends.

One of the many pleasures ballooning afforded me, meeting Eddie Allen in 1974 out at the Nationals in Indianola Iowa, and becoming friends. Pic shows Eddies smoke balloon being readied that he later flew @ 78 years young.

A note from Eddie after he attended the Adirondack Balloon Festival as our honorary Balloon Meister.

A note from Eddie after he attended the Adirondack Balloon Festival as our honorary BalloonMeister.

In 1980, did my first balloon wedding with a couple who came up from Texas. That's mayor Ed to the right who performed the ceremony and me on the left. Told them I'd make them famous if the flew with me. Their wedding was observed by hundreds as we tethered over Crandall Park pond in Glens Falls. The event was covered by all the  Albany TV stations, print media, and was broadcast live over network radio (no internet then). Because of all the hoopla, they ended up on the nationally syndicated television show, "To Tell The Truth". So, they had their moment of fame!

In 1980, did my first balloon wedding with a couple who came up from Texas. That’s mayor Ed to the right who performed the ceremony and me on the left. Told them I’d make them famous if the flew with me. Their wedding was observed by hundreds as we tethered over Crandall Park pond in Glens Falls. The event was covered by all the Albany TV stations, print media, and was broadcast live over network radio (no internet then). Because of all the hoopla, they ended up on the nationally syndicated television show, “To Tell The Truth”. So, they had their moment of fame!

 

On the set of Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories". A fantastic experience being involved in a major motion picture, but no Diane Keaton :0(

On the set of Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories”. A fantastic experience being involved in a major motion picture, but no Diane Keaton :0(

The contract for doing the film. Big bucks for late 70's.

The contract for doing the film. Big bucks for late 70’s.

Pic that appeared in the Albany TU of Peacock VI by buddy Skip Dickstein.

Pic that appeared in the Albany TU of Peacock VI by buddy Skip Dickstein.

Me and Baker with NY Post staff writer, Michael Riedel, who did a feature article on us

Me and crew extraordinaire,  Baker, with NY Post staff writer, Michael Riedel, who did a feature article on us

The article.

The article.

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A passenger took this pic of me flying one of my earlier Peacock balloons.

A passenger took this pic of me flying one of my earlier Peacock balloons that Mike Delsignore now flys.

Kinda a crappy copy of the pic used when I was Mister October in the Finch Paper Calendar from 1996 :0)

Kinda a crappy copy of the pic used when I was “Mister October” in the Finch Paper Calendar of Adirondack Characters from 1996 :0)

At the North East Pioneers Association gathering last May down in Poughkeepsie, l-r with Andi Rooney, Gil Foster, Me, Chris Mooney and Rick Pollock.

At the North East Pioneer Aeronauts Association gathering last May down in Poughkeepsie, l-r with Andi Rooney, Gil Foster, Me, Chris Mooney and Rick Pollock.

With some legacy buddies at The Wally Fest 2 years ago; Rudy Schwenker, Paul Stumpf, Bob Auchincloss, Tom Stoldoski, Me, Tom Smith. (Tom, at least I didn't have to look up the spelling of your name :0))

With some legacy buddies at The Wally Fest 2 years ago; Rudy Schwenker, Paul Stumpf, Bob Auchincloss, Tom Stoldoski, Me, Tom Smith. (Tom, at least I didn’t have to look up the spelling of your name :0))

Since this is Christmas, I wanted to end with this pic taken by buddy, Skip Dickstein, of a flight I did with Art Binley in 1979 from Empire Plaza in Albany, from in front of the State Christmas tree and The Capitol Building. Have a Merry everybody.

Since this is Christmas, I wanted to end with this pic taken by buddy Skip Dickstein, of a flight I did with Art Binley in 1979, from the Empire Plaza in Albany, from in front of the State Christmas tree and The Capitol Building. Have a Merry Christmas everybody!

Well, that’s it. It’s been very much fun near 40 years. I’ve made some great friends of folks that I’ve dropped-in on out in Washington County that I’m gonna miss visiting with, like; Joe and Kate Maille (who provided a take-off spot for years), Bernie Vaughn, Donna and Brent Petteys, Steve and Pete at Pole Valley, Dick and Mary Stewart (who bailed me out when crew didn’t show up and got me and the pacs back), the Durkee Family (who welcomed our landings and allowed me to use their property for take-offs), the Siaulnski Family on Pollock Hill on the Argyle Flats (hey, it’s the name the locals gave the area), and many too many others to mention here. Thanks for the memories everybody! See you all on down the road! Enjoy!!

b-t-w, you can click on any of the above pics and they blow-up to view better….

 

As an addendum, I should add the balloon show that I did for The Port Authority of NY and NJ for Harbor Festival in New York City in 1979. My biggest challenge and client that I worked with during my career. It was quite an undertaking for a bumpkin from the north-country. Kinda a duck outta water, swimming with sharks, but still a great experience, and, I did meet some great folks doing it. Had a fantastic helicopter flight right over Manhattan, from LaGuardia to the heliport at the fire boat docks near Battery Park, for a meeting with the Port Authority folks atop one of the tower buildings in a private dining room (what a view). Helicopter flights to “The Meadowlands” to meet with owners to get approval for the Cool Pro Balloon Tour with Tom Gable to fly from their parking lot for the Festival (the FAA shot that one down – good grief, the site was right between Teterboro and Newark Airports). Got a hot air balloon out on Liberty Island for a tether for the Tall Ships parade (don’t think that one will happen again) plus had balloons stationed around lower Manhattan (Battery Park), Liberty Island Park in NJ and a park in Brooklyn Heights or Bay Ridge (don’t remember).

This is a pic of the poster created to promote the  Harbor Festival. That's a rendition of Bill Hughes Seagull Balloon and the Twin Towers - sad, but...

This is a pic of the poster created to promote the Harbor Festival. That’s a rendition of Bill Hughes Seagull Balloon and the Twin Towers – sad, but…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northeastern Pioneer Aeronauts Reunion

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Just back from a fantastic weekend, a reunion with around 100 folks who are the pioneer hot air balloon flyers from the late 60’s and 70’s who flew the early days of hot air ballooning in the Northeast. We had folks attending who were mainly still in the NE, but also who came from North & South Carolina, Colorado, California and Florida. It was a great opportunity to renew old friendships, share old tales, and just talk. If interested, you can check-out some of the bios and pics sent-in for the online Year Book. As a bonus, Dr Clayton Thomas was inducted into the Balloon Federation Hall of Fame at the Saturday afternoon event by Mick Murphy, representing the BFA.

In this photo is Ande Rooney from Port Ewen NY, Gil Foster from Stonington CT, myself, Chris Mooney from Woodbury CT, and Rick Pollock from Shelburne VT.

There have been a couple of books written on the “Pioneer Days” of ballooning by fellow Aeronauts — Tom Smith, “The Pioneer Days of Hot Air Ballooning”; Fred Williams, “Memoirs of an old Fat Balloonist”–I’ve got to quote you the Foreword by Brian Boland. “Fred is a BIG guy. When an individual who is bigger than life comes crashing into your world, it leaves a lasting impression. My encounter with Fred in the mid-70’s was one of those defining moments.

“It was at the 2nd Glens Falls balloon meet. …A buddy an I were flying along and began to notice that all the other balloons were landing. We climbed to take a good look and saw forest forever…saw a farmer below. I yelled down ‘What’s it like up ahead?’..’trees’. We dumped in for a last field landing,…”

“…we looked up to see a green and white balloon rapidly following our path. …’Ya gotta land HERE’…He may have already realized this as within moments the whole balloon changed shape…and he came in like a meteorite.”

“Then there was a huge rebound and what seemed to be a well-deflated balloon yanked the burner and then the basket walls and finally the basket floor for one last 20-foot balloon hop. Somehow, somewhere, the intrepid balloon driver managed to turn off the burner(but only after burning away a lot of said balloon).”

“We ran over, and there amidst the separated basket walls, floor, and heavy steel tanks was the largest balloon man I’d ever seen. It turned out there was another guy under him that I couldn’t even see! That’s my first real memory of meeting Fred Williams.”

And then, Fred just goes on with stories like this thru a prolonged hot air ballooning career in the book. We ended up naming a “Shit Happens” award at the Adirondack Balloon Festival after Fred’s caper on that memorable flight detailed by Brian.

Here’s an old pic of me from 1979 on the set (this scene never made the cut) of Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories”. A generator that ran the lights, took up most of the room in the basket – no such thing as miniaturization back in the 70’s. Actually did a couple of flights with a running generator and only room for 1 – 10 gal tank of fuel. The flights were interesting, since it was North Shore Long Island, very near the LI Sound @ Planting Fields Arboretum. Those tales are for another time.

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Santa by Hot Air Balloon

Monday, December 19th, 2011

How does Santa deliver all those gifts to all the kiddies when there is no snow for Santa’s sleigh?

Wire photo of a flight I did with friend Art Binley on 12/23/79 from the Empire State Plaza in Albany. We took off next to the State Christmas tree and the State Capitol Building so this shot could be framed by the photographer, Skip Dickstein..

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Flight!

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 this  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 scene  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:-))