Tennessee (Cont'd)

 

Wayne dropped back down low, where the winds were very light. That might have been the smart thing to do, but I didn't want to begin bursting balloons so early in the flight, and the haze hadn't really coalesced into fog. So I allowed myself to drift higher.I drifted south over the city and was soon headed right toward the Eastman chemical plant. I dropped some ballast to gain altitude and avoid going directly through the smoke plumes -- I am told that Eastman is in full compliance with all regulations regarding emissions from their smokestacks, and while I have no reason to doubt that, it seems unlikely that the standards were set with this precise situation in mind, so why take chances? Unfortunately, by ascending I had risen into a wind layer that was moving at about 20 mph to the south. I was also up high in the haze, where it would be hard for my chase crew could see me.

 

I began to get a bit of solar heating, and my balloons carried me higher and higher into the bright, white sky. I continued to move south at a good clip, watching the long ridge of Bays Mountain through the haze off to my right. Finally, at about 4,000 feet, I decided it was time to head back down to where the wind was slower and I could get a better fix on where I was.


Emily Windes

 

When I got back down to about five-hundred feet, I was flying down a long valley, running parallel to a large highway. I called Ernie on the radio, but got only static in response. (I later learned that they were one valley over, out of radio range due to the hills)

I called a few more times just in case they could hear me, describing the area I was flying over -- it was a large four-lane highway, which I figured there couldn't be all that common.
I passed over some outlying factories and manufactured homes, and then I was out in the country. The houses grew further apart and the fields grew larger, crisscrossed at random by rusty rows of powerline towers. The highway to which I had been running parallel petered out into a two lane road.

 

 

Finally, with no word on the radio from crew, I decided it was time to land. Out ahead of me, the country grew more hilly, and it looked like there were pockets of fog here and there -- not the kind of conditions I wanted for shooting a landing with all the powerlines around. I started to descend toward two open fields separated by a line of trees. As I dropped in, the wind speed dropped, so it looked like I would not clear the trees. However, I was low on ballast at this point, and rather than try drop ballast to go back up and shoot another landing, I just continued in and grabbed onto the top branches of one of the trees to stop myself. The balloons supported all but a few pounds of my weight, so I was able to stand up in the very highest branches and look around.

 

Happily, I saw someone walking up in the field below. It turned out that a couple of spectators at the launch had followed me in their cars from Kingsport. I called down and asked if they would lend me a hand. After making them go from one side of the trees to the other and them back again, based on the shifting winds, I pulled myself from tree-top to tree-top to where I could thrown down a line, which they used to pull me down to the field. I came down without bursting a single balloon.

 

After about ten minutes my crew arrived. Everyone who was interested had a chance to get in the harness and go up on tether. Then, we put all my balloons away, and returned to Kingsport, my Tennessee adventure successfully concluded.

 

 

Celebration XXVIII

Crew Chief: Ernie Hartt

Special Thanks to: Tri-Cities Regional Airport and inflation volunteers; Wayne Fortney (Adventure Time Hot-air Ballooning); Indian Path Medical Center, Kingsport Fun Fest Balloon Rally (John Scott).

Photography: David Grace, Joe Wilson, Emily Windes, John Ninomiya

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tri-Cities Regional Airport "Frugal Factor" Volunteers


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