Chuck hurt his knee back in October and after seeing a doctor, we found out that it was a partially torn ACL. That meant no flying for a few months and quite a bit of physical therapy to rehabilitate his knee. While he was off from flying, I did manage to get some extra flight hours in. Then on the 9th of January, it was Solo Flight Day.
Here’s the sun rising on the morning of my flight. If you look closely in the top right, you can see Venus shining brightly. We set off a pibal to see what direction the flight would most likely take. Neil – the pilot of the balloon “Cool Flyings” also came out to support my solo effort.
I went through my checklists and Dean took off in the basket with me for the first three or so minutes of the flight. Then I did a landing out in the desert, not far from where I launched, and Dean hopped out of the basket. And off I went into the calm, blue yonder, flying our balloon by myself. Here’s a pic that Dean took on his way back to the chase vehicle, shortly after I took off.
The morning was calm, but I was still a little bit nervous. I took off and did one more landing — my first solo landing — for practice. It wasn’t my smoothest landing, but it wasn’t too bad. Then I took off again and gained some altitude, changing the direction of my flight with the wind. It was such a help having Neil along, because his balloon acted as something of a pibal for me, so I could see what direction he was flying at what altitude.
The winds were slow, and because of the light and variable, it ended up being a bit of a patience game, trying to suss out a landing spot. I ended up overflying some foothills and then dropped down low over a small housing development to get to a good landing field. My landing was beautiful, but in truth, the winds made it look easy. Puffing over those houses slowly, I glanced at my GPS to see that I was barely going 1.2 mph. I passed the houses, a small road, and let the balloon gently down in a field on the other side, where Dean, Kim, and Chuck were there to put weight on, which made it easier.
Here’s a pic I managed to snap when I was flying over the foothills. The winds were so calm that I was able to sneak a quick shot with my iPhone 4. All the dots you see in the distance were ride balloons — there were at least twelve of them that day.
Here’s another quick pic I snapped from the balloon — you can see Cool Flyings, Neil Davison’s balloon, off in the distance.
Chuck was able to record a little bit of video for my flight as well, and it’s definitely a life memory that I’ll never forget. It’s a wonderful experience being up in a balloon, as a solo pilot. I think I still prefer having company though — gets a bit quiet up there with nobody to talk to. Amazing feeling though — just you, the wind, and the sound of the burner.
Here’s the video:
Thanks so much to both Dean & Kim Rosenlof, as none of this would be possible without their help, guidance, and instruction. Thanks to Neil Davison, who let me fly his balloon up north for practice a few weeks before my solo, and got up at the crack of dark to support me on solo flight day. And of course, thanks to my wonderful husband, who supports my adventures and makes all my dreams come true. I can’t wait to be your wingman when it’s your turn to solo.