I was introduced to hot air ballooning in June 1975.
Mick, a co-worker where I worked at the time, was an active hang-glider pilot. He became interested in making a hang-glider drop from a hot air balloon and looked around for a balloon and pilot. In the process, he got so excited about ballooning that he received flight instruction, got his LTA (Lighter Than Air) pilot license, and went into a partnership on a balloon.
This didn't help with the original goal since his partners would not pilot the balloon for his hang glider drop and it would be very difficult for Mick to pilot the balloon and hang glider at the same time. That's where I came in.
The first time Mick invited me out it was as a passenger. The next weekend I was a chase crew member. The third weekend I was a student pilot. They say that the first balloon flight is cheap. It's the second (or third) that really gets expensive.
Six months later I received my LTA private pilot license and gave myself a used balloon as a Christmas present.
Over the next few months, Mick worked with the FAA to get his glider release approved and we eventually did four hang-glider drops before I retired from towing hang-gliders. Each flight was pretty much the same. We would inflate the balloon and attach a mooring line to the basket. I would lift off a few feet, restrained from drifting by the mooring line, and the crew would attach the tow line to the glider release under the basket. I would climb a little higher so they could move the hang glider under the basket and attach it to the other end of the tow line. Mick would get harnessed into the hang-glider and I would heat the balloon to lift the combined weight of all the equipment. The weight combined with the drag of the hang glider wings dictated that I fly solo. Well, almost solo! I could talk to Mick during our climb, but once we started down and he released the hang glider, I was solo.
Mick was also the motivation to continue training and eventually get
my commercial balloon license (Ron, I'm over booked this weekend.
If you had your commercial license you could fly some passengers.).
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This page modified: July 09 2000 12:43:58.