Sonoran Star’s first flight was everything I hoped it would be and more. Standing in the garage at 5am that morning and watching the winds blowing quite steadily in the northwest valley, I didn’t think that we were going to be able to fly. As we got closer to Tumbleweed Park, however, Chuck noticed that the winds had calmed down and conditions improved markedly.
We got to Tumbleweed Park to meet the other balloonists and set up a pibal (short for pilot balloon). The pibal is a helium balloon that you set free before flying so you can tell which way the wind will take you as well as which direction to lay out (set up) your envelope. Because of the direction, we all changed our launch point to Gilbert Civic Center instead.
The setup of Sonoran Star went fairly smooth for its first time, although things like the uprights and the burner blocks (what the burner attaches to) were a bit difficult to lock in. Those kinds of things can be easily adjustable on a free weekend in the driveway (which is what we did on Saturday, Apr 3rd). The top of the balloon is yellow with a classic happy face, and there is a US and an Arizona flag flying from the end of the crown line.
We launched around 7:25am and shortly after launch, I did my first landing (probably 100 yards away from takeoff) just so I could practice. It went smoothly, and then I lifted off again for the rest of the flight. The balloon flew SO light. It was quite responsive, and I found myself over-correcting a bit with the burners at first, but then I was able to stabilize my rates of ascent/descent and control it much easier.
We flew for just about an hour, and got to land in a fantastic open field that is on the other side of some canal project reservoirs. On approach to landing, I was probably 15 feet over the water, and resisted the urge to do a “splash ‘n dash” — seeing as how I don’t quite have the skills for that yet.
The ducks flew into the air from the water, the jackrabbits darted every which way from one brushy pile to another, and I tried (vainly) to part the Red Sea of gnats that were clouding around us in the basket. My second landing was quiet and smooth, and I now have officially two landings to log for that flight!
Chuck did a fantastic job chasing, and was there with the jeep and trailer just moments after we landed. We packed up — it was great having extra help for this first flight — and headed off to a wonderful tailgating breakfast. First flight successful!
Here are some stats for Sonoran Star’s first flight:
Launch Location: Gilbert Civic Center
Max. Speed: 22.5mph at one point (didn’t feel like it)
Ground Distance: 11.5 miles
Max. Altitude: 3200′ AGL (Above Ground Level)
Fuel Used: 9 gallons of propane
Number of landings: 2
This weekend (Apr 10th), Chuck gets to fly Sonoran Star for the first time! I’m excited to be able to chase as well as hopefully capture some video and photos.