Lincoln Daily News popular sports writer, Teena
Lowery was selected as this year’s participant. Flying in a hot air
balloon for the first time ever, Lowery was excited and also anxious
about what to expect.
Before finding her balloon, she was required to check in with
Theresa Phelan who asked her about her health, did she have any leg,
knee, or back issues. Phelan would go on to explain that sometimes
landings are a bit rough, something the pilots can’t always control
is how “softly” the basket lands at the end of the flight.
Then it was on to speak with local pilot Jim Phelan and find out
which balloon Lowery would be riding in.
Lowery ended up being assigned to a very special balloon called
Auspicious, piloted by Pilot Martin Philpott. This balloon is not
one that will drift through the skies on Friday or Saturday night.
Rather it is one of the balloons that will be used to provide
tethered rides at the Logan County Airport throughout the evening on
both nights. This one is special because it is the one with the ADA
accessible basket. The basket is a bit larger than the other
balloons because it has special accommodations for those with
Lowery also discovered that she would be riding in good company with
Zoey Luken, the 10-year old daughter of Balloon Festival volunteer
and Chamber member Doug Luken. In addition, the third guest in the
basket would be Cathy Wilhite, president of the Chamber.
All three of these ladies it was their first time to take to the
skies by balloon, and each was very much looking forward to the
experience, though they may have bonded a little tighter knowing
that it was a first for all three, so they would count on each other
for bravery and support.
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When the balloon was fully inflated, the special door
in the ADA basket was unlocked and the three gals, their pilot and
one crew member gathered inside.
Their pilot first explained to them that even though they were
passengers they had responsibilities on this flight. Rule number
one, call out when you see power lines, even if you are pretty sure
the pilot sees them, call it out anyway.
The other rules included noting crops and livestock as the pilot
looks for a good place to set down for the end of the flight. He
explained that no pilot wants to cause harm to the property they use
for landing. If he’s getting close and someone can see that it is a
field crop they are heading into or there are animals nearby, they
should call it out again, and the pilot will then attempt to
maneuver away from that location.
With the tasks before them fully understood, the pilot signaled to
the crew standing around the basket to gently start letting go so
the balloon could float into the blue. And in an instant they were
air bound. Lowery was on the job before the basket was even 20 feet
off the ground, happily snapping pictures of the people she was
Balloons this year floated out of the airport space in a
southwesterly direction giving the balloonists a new perspective of
downtown Lincoln and to those on the ground a more colorful view
Lots more colorful views, fun and thrills are in store this weekend
as the airport comes alive with all kinds of entertainment and
downtown Lincoln offers art, crafts and products shopping with the
Lincoln Balloon Festival, and don't forget the food and live music.