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Hot Air Balloon Ride
    On my birthday in 1999, I received a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride.  In May, I contacted the pilot and asked to be put on his schedule to take a flight.  The weather conditions had to be right in order to go up in the hot air balloon.  Finally, on June 19, 1999 the weather was ideal for the flight.  

     I met the pilot and three other people (who were going on that same flight) at a local shopping mall.  The pilot released a small balloon full of helium at the shopping center and observed the flight pattern of the balloon.  This was done in order to determine the wind direction and speed.  The wind direction and speed was used by the pilot to choose a launch site.

     We left our vehicles at the shopping center and traveled in the van to our launch site. We helped unfold the balloon and set it up.  We then needed to wait for the balloon to fill up.  When the balloon was full, we all got into the gondola and the pilot lauched the balloon.

     The van followed the balloon.  The crew in the van was the lookout for problems that might occur on the flight path.  They also located a landing site when the pilot was ready to bring the balloon down.  The crew in the van also needs to get permission from land owners before the pilot can land the balloon.

     After the launch, we headed west toward South Mountain.  The mountain range runs north and south and we were headed from east to west. When we were over the mountain range, the winds changed and we started to head south over the mountains.  At one point the pilot was considering taking the balloon down in a lake.  The pilot was relieved when the winds changed again and we began heading west.  We were in the air for a very long time and the sun was starting to set so the pilot looked for a place to land.  He located a field near a church, where we set down.  The landing was very good and we quickly exited the gondola before the balloon itself came down.  It is dangerous to get stuck under the balloon.

     We took a few pictures and then toasted the successful flight with a glass of champaign.  After the balloon was fully deflated and loaded back into the van, we were driven back to the shopping mall.  The pilot gave each of us a certificate with the date and time of the flight.
Flight Certificate
     In this picture, there is a twin engine propeller plane that was flying at about the same altitude as we were.  The balloon was not close to the plane so it only appears as a speck in this picture.
     In this picture is the lake we would have had to land in if the wind had not changed direction within a half hour of the time I took this picture.

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