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Grainger Everyday Heroes: Hot Air Balloon Pilot

Grainger Editorial Staff

My name is Seth Goodman, we're here in Lincoln, Illinois at the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival, and obviously I am a hot air balloon pilot here. My day job is actually real estate, I am a real estate broker here in Lincoln, I do hot air ballooning for enjoyment or pleasure. I did my first ride for my 13th birthday, my parents actually gave that to me as a gift, and I would say ever since then I've been kinda hooked on it.

I mean, at first I was constantly looking at the gauges, and then the pilot, the commercial pilot that trained me, he said, "Seth, eventually you're gonna learn, you're just gonna feel it." And that's one of those things, you have to have confidence in yourself and know what you're doing, rather than continuously look at those gauges. In the balloon we have a temperature gauge, which will tell the reading at the very top of the balloon. Generally, you don't wanna exceed 250 up there, and you definitely do not wanna go over 275, that is actually a dangerous temperature level. Also in there we tells us the altitude, so we know how high we are. We also know our speed based on the GPS, as well as our heading in the air. So there's a lot of different things you can look at, and then of course each propane tank has the level in there so we can tell how much propane we have left and so forth. In terms of propane, it really depends on how many people you have flying with you, as well as how far you plan to fly and the temperature outside. Obviously, it's a little bit warmer tonight, so we will go through more propane than a flight on a cooler day.

The challenges I guess that you would face here is that there are 33 balloons. I mean, you have to know how to control your balloon as well as know how to maneuver it around 32 other balloons. Strategically, here also, during each of our flights, morning and evening flights, we have targets that are set. And so our objective is to hit the target. When you hit the target, obviously, that's when you have to know how to maneuver the different altitudes so that you can get the right heading you want at the right speed you want. I could probably fly this balloon, set it up, fly it, take it down with myself and two others at the minimum. I like to have myself and at least four or five others. Obviously the more help the better, the quicker you can set up, the quicker you can take it down. There is a lot of weight involved here in this balloon, especially when the tanks are full, so you wanna make sure that you do have the manpower and you are prepared to get the balloon set up. Especially during a festival like this, you wanna be able to set up in a timely manner.

Yeah, I would say in hot air ballooning, it's just one of those things that... like anything, anything could happen. You do have to be cautious, you have to be very careful in all aspects of it, from setup to flight to takedown. There's a million and one things you have to keep an eye out for, and that's why I like to have crew that know what they're doing. I actually have a radio which will communicate directly to the chase vehicle. So they will tell me, they'll get out ahead of me, they'll tell me what landing sites are up ahead to which way we're going, I'll communicate to them my heading and my speed, so that way we can kinda work together and strategically say this is where we may go, this is where we could go. When we come in to land, I say, "This is where we're coming," they get in front of us, they catch the basket, they keep us down, and we're usually good to go. They do, they chase me in this truck right here, and like I said, they're usually where we are when we come in. They'll catch us, we'll take the balloon down, load it back up, and head back to wherever we took off from.

I think people are fascinated by it, especially little kids, because... I mean, the balloon that I have here, it's lime-green, blue, white, and orange, so at nighttime the white and the lime-green really glow very nicely, you just hear people oohing and aahing the whole time. And we do a whole glow, which is where everybody will glow, and then we do a flicker, which we go down the line, so one'll flicker, the next one, and so forth, all the way down. It grabs the attention of everybody around here, and it's just a neat event that everybody looks forward to each year. When you fly in a hot air balloon, it's so serene and peaceful, and it's something that very few get to experience, I guess. So it's a very neat feeling.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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