Finally a Chance to Fly
This morning I staggered out the hotel into the darkness to be greeted by stars and no wind. Finally we would be able to fly.
We headed into town and showed up to the first official practice flight briefing. David Levin, the Championship Director, set a simple task of a Fly In and a Fly On. The Fly In meant we had to find our own launch site and fly to a target they had set in a field. The Fly On meant we had to declare an intersection of our own choice and fly to that.
The Aussie team headed out to the north of Battle Creek to try and find a decent launch site amongst all the woodland. While we were on the side of the road working out who’s farm we would as permission to launch from, Steve, the Land Owner Relation officer for the event pulled up and asked if we wanted to fly from the property we were parked out. It just happened to be his mum’s place and he led us into the back of their property to a perfect launch site.
We quickly inflated the balloons (the first time Matt had seen his new balloon) and I headed off first. It was the first time I had flown in Battle Creek and it was pretty exciting to get up and see the area from the air.
We were to the North West of the target and were reliant on the ground winds to get us over to the target. When I got into the air I could see a line of the Team USA balloons coming in from the North in the higher winds. Matt, Pete and I flew in from the side and placed ourselves in the middle of the US queue.
I ended up flying right next to Nick Donner from the US for the rest of the flight. We both approached the first target next to each other. It was a great feeling to actually get to the target on my first practice flight in the new area. Unfortunately I did a pretty week throw of the marker and it landed about 7m from the centre of the cross. It should have been closer, but I now realise I have a tendency to under throw. Matt absolutely nailed the first cross, throwing onto the centre square of the target (so well under a metre).
We then headed down to a highly wooded intersection for our Fly On. I ended up coming in a bit high and had to rely on a clinometer drop from a couple of hundred feet at speed. Once again the trust clino served me well and the marked landed about 7m from the intersection.
After about 50 minutes I saw I was headed towards a long line of woods. As I was I approaching the woods, I flew over a field that had a friendly farmer waving in it and I decided that I should call it quits and landed in the field.
I have to say, we have met a lot of really friendly and helpful locals. This farm was very much one of them. He was a little concerned we might bog our van in the field because it was slippery and hilly. So as we were leaving he appeared with his tractor just in case we got bogged. We didn’t, but it was a kind gesture all the same.
At lunch time the Aussie Team all sat down and had a team meeting. It was a chance for us to all discuss and agree on how we would work together on the ground pre flight and how we would communicate in the air. It was a really productive session and I think that it really showed that the whole team works really well together. Hopefully that will bring us all up the field during the next week.
The day was ended with the balloonpong.com party at one of the local bars. The turn out was fantastic and it was great way to catch up with all the people we had not seen for years (but spend a lot of time Facebooking).
The weather looks like it is going to be good for another practice flight in the morning. We have the Master Briefing in the afternoon. That is then followed by the opening ceremony. We don’t know what the ceremony will entail but they are going to be live streaming it from 7pm Eastern US time…
Oh BTW, please ignore any typos, spelling and grammar in this blog. I am always writing it in bed when I am trashed and about to go to sleep… so I really can’t be bothered proof reading it. I just want to sleep… good night.