Cluster Balloon Flight

Editor's note: this flight (Celebration III) took place on October 18, 1998. It was my fifth cluster balloon flight. This was my first attempt to document one of my flights as a webpage.

It's four o'clock in the morning in the Temecula, California Wine Country, and with the help of a dozen friends, I'm getting ready for an amazing adventure.

Inflation Begins.jpg (32902 bytes)

I plan to launch at dawn, before the wind picks up.  It's still dark when my friends begin inflating the huge six-foot balloons.

They tie the inflated balloons to sandbags and continue blowing up more.

 

Inflation.jpg (53023 bytes)
Assembling the Balloon.jpg (52026 bytes)

I get into my harness and my friends begin to tie the giant clusters of balloons to me.  One of my friends has brought her hot-air balloon to follow me for the first part of my ascent.

Final Preparations.jpg (58283 bytes)

Now only a tie-down strap holds me down to some sandbags.   My feet are dancing a foot above the ground.  I sway gently as the seventy-two huge balloons strain at their strings.  I reach down for the strap that holds me down....

Just Before Launch.jpg (49362 bytes)

 

The strap comes loose, and suddenly the balloons are lifting me into the morning breeze.

I'm flying.

Launch.jpg (54308 bytes)

 

Celebration Three Above Trees.jpg (79517 bytes)

I rise swiftly and silently into the air.  The world drops away beneath my dangling feet.  My balloons are a rainbow bouquet above me.

Celebration Three.jpg (84759 bytes)
Celebration Three with Mountains.jpg (81377 bytes)

My balloons take me higher and higher: over the foothills, then above the mountains.

 

At ten-thousand feet I leave the hot-air balloon behind and continue to climb.

High.jpg (27319 bytes)

My heart is pounding as I soar higher.  The air grows thin, and I put on an oxygen mask.  As prearranged, I talk to air traffic control on the radio as I enter Class A airspace at 18,000 feet.  I can see over the mountains to the ocean twenty miles away.  Finally, at 21,000 feet, I burst some of my balloons and start down.

I-15, Mountains, Ocean.jpg (34843 bytes)

Landing.jpg (40669 bytes)

I land after nearly two hours on the Soboba Indian reservation.  My friends are there to meet me.

My Crew.jpg (38230 bytes)

Special thanks to Crew Chief Ernie Hartt, chase balloon pilot Jenny Wolf, chase plane pilot Adam Glover, and Official Observer Dave Lynch.  Thanks also to Dean Ekdahl for photography and launch site.

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Version 1.02, 9/14/99