The flight was with long-time experienced local pilot Jim Ireland
in his balloon basket under the ‘Sun Glow’ canopy.
The wind and nearby storm systems threatened to cancel the flights,
but after watching weather patterns, the balloon meister in charge
declared it safe to fly.
Though Snyder was initially both nervous and excited about the
experience, she said, “It was an amazing experience just floating
away and watching the world go by.”
Once the balloon envelope and all the gear has been laid out, pilots
are cued to begin inflation. The balloon launch field becomes noisy
as mobile generators are started up to power giant fans. Watching
the crew prepare the balloon for takeoff is like watching someone
blow up a large balloon with inflator fans, which adds new meaning
to the concept of being full of hot air. Once the balloon was
inflated, they attached it to the baskets with carabiners, latches
that connect the lines between basket and the envelope.
Propane flame is started, heating the air and the balloon stands up.
The envelope is guided by an anchor person holding tightly to the
rope attached to the envelope top. Crew hold the basket down until
the pilot is cleared for take-off.
Once everything was secured and the balloons were cleared to fly,
Jim Ireland, crew member Haydn Zimmer, and passenger Bobbie Snyder
lifted off. The plan was to go towards Lawndale, floating anywhere
from two to 12 miles, and flying until they could find a nice spot
The crew in the chase vehicle followed their route, watching the
wind patterns to know what direction the balloon would go. As the
balloon floated around 1500 feet in the air over the cornfields
towards East Lincoln, the ride in Sun Glow went smoothly, landing
around 5 miles away at the edge of a nearby cornfield.
Jim Ireland and his wife Nancy have lived in Lincoln for many years
and been involved with the balloon festival since its beginning.
Jim started flying balloons in 1989, having been introduced to
ballooning by a friend. In addition to the Lincoln Balloon Festival,
he has been involved in several other balloon events throughout the
Midwest and has even been the Albuquerque, New Mexico Balloon
festival, which has around 800 balloons.
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Jim says every time is an adventure. His longest
flight ever, took place in the winter when he went 234 miles from
Macomb, Illinois to Bloomington, Indiana.
Jim says one of the things he enjoys most about ballooning is taking
new people up and seeing the excitement on their face. Since they
never know where they are going to land, he says it is important to
make friends with landowners, who generously let him land on their
property. Among the special memories he has from piloting balloons
are -- seeing a wedding and an engagement take place in a balloon;
-- taking up a 90 year old woman who sat on a stool during the whole
ride; -- and taking a boy with severe handicaps on a tethered ride.
Ireland said training to be a pilot included 10 hours flying with a
licensed pilot, a written test, and knowledge of weather patterns,
air regulations, and safety and health aspects.
The crew includes Dave and Jayne Zimmer, and Rick and Haydn Zimmer,
all of whom have crewed with him for many years. Jayne said she
likes watching people go up and seeing a mixture of both terror and
excitement on their faces.
Once the crew arrived at the landing site to assist with the
landing, they helped the passengers disembark.
Bobbie was all smiles as she left the big basket and her joy in
taking the ride was obvious.
As the crew wrapped up the balloon envelope, sweat was dripping from
their brows due to both the heat and their exertion. Watching them
put the balloon into bag was like watching someone pack up a huge
sleeping bag. Amazingly, it only took about 25 minutes for the crew
to deflate, pack, and load up the equipment. The hard work and
dedication of the flight crew makes it all go very quickly.
Bobbie said that although she was very nervous about the flight
beforehand, she was very glad that she had the opportunity to
experience her first balloon ride.
[By ANGELA REINERS]