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Jim O'Brien's Flights

You fly it, you squeeze it! The following are pictures and narratives from some of my balloon flights, which typically take place in the general vicinity of Southington, CT. I'm a member and officer of the Connecticut Lighter Than Air Society (CLAS).

The pictures are presented as thumbnail shots to keep the downloads fast. You can click on any thumbnail to view a bigger version of each picture.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at james.obrien@pobox.com

NEW! Some pictures and recollections from my ballooning activities as a teenager almost 25 years ago.

Date (most recent first) Description
Soon (weather permitting)... More to come...
Sunday, July 15, 2001 Leaving it all behind

This morning we flew from the Aqua Turf club in Southington. Short on crew, I had Carlos fly with me and we left BG's trailer behind at the launch field. We landed in the same park as Santo and Lisa and, after we packed up both balloons, they gave me a ride back to get the trailer while Carlos stayed with the balloon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2001 Role reversal, part deux

I flew with Macarena again, this time from Spring Street. After a flight mostly consisting of practising precision ascents and descents, we did some contour flying over a forested area, landing eventually at the edge of a newly-cleared construction area.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001 Role reversal

This morning I flew with Macarena in Big Green, with Santo chasing, from Panthorn Park. Macarena is getting close to her checkride and Santo wants her to get a couple of hours instruction with someone else beforehand. The gentle winds allowed us to do a few practice landings in the park before climbing and heading toward the northeast and a soft drop-line landing.

Saturday, June 9, 2001 Checkride

Once again we flew from Farmington toward the south, on my commercial checkride. Coincidentally, we ended up landing at Southington High School, the same landing site we approached from the opposite direction on my private checkride! All of the balloons that accompanied us this morning landed at the high school also, in the playing fields, much to the delight of many onlookers.

Thursday, June 7, 2001 Down The Line!

This morning we launched again from the Farmington site, this time another pre-test training flight with Santo. We did a few touch-and-go landings during the flight, and some precision maneuvers. Our final landing was at Norton Park, site of the annual Plainville balloon festival.

Friday, June 1, 2001 Signed Off Again

Today Santo and I flew with Robert from Farmington to New Britain. I got to fly the balloon, and Robert signed me off to take the commercial checkride. Along the way, we flew to about 7,000 feet, the highest I'd been in a balloon so far.

Sunday, May 20, 2001 Santo's New Balloon

I had the privilege this morning of accompanying Santo aloft on the maiden flight of his new balloon. We flew from Farmington toward the southwest, to Bristol. I even got to take the controls for part of the flight!

This narrative is a bit different from the others, since I've also included pictures that document the construction of the balloon at the Aerostar factory, the delivery and initial assembly, as well as the first inflation and flight.

Wednesday, May 9, 2001 Training Flight

We flew from Panthorn Park and landed on the same property where we landed a couple of flights ago (this time I landed on the lawn, though, and not on the manured field!) We launched on our own, but we did see Erwin and chat with him on the radio.

Sunday, April 29, 2001 Training Flight

We flew from Farmington just about straight south to a landing in a large field in Plainvillle about 1 hr and 5 miles later. There were 4 other balloons launching from the same site this morning.

Monday, April 23, 2001 Tether

We wanted to inflate "Big Green" yesterday to give tether rides to Andrew's birthday party guests, but the wind wouldn't cooperate. This evening, the wind died about an hour before sunset, and we gave tether rides to lots of friends and neighbors.

Friday, April 20, 2001 Training Flight

For the third time in a row, we launched from the small parking lot at Panthorn Park in Southington, with Lisa and Carlos chasing. We went about 4 miles in a short flight that included an ascent to more than 3,000 feet AGL followed by a terminal velocity descent and recovery.

Friday, April 6, 2001 Spring is sprung!

Today, it was another training flight with Santo from Panthorn Park. We had a slow, lazy flight of about 50 minutes, covering about 2 miles. We took the opportunity to do several take-offs and landings each to extend our currency another 90 days.

Saturday, January 13, 2001 First Snow Flight

Today, Santo flew with me from Panthorn Park on an instructional flight in "Big Green." It was my first time flying over a snow-covered landscape, and we did several landings during the slow, gentle flight with temperatures in the teens. We kept the balloon dry, landing after about 70 minutes in a quiet neighborhood street.

Saturday, November 25, 2000 First round-trip

This morning, I was accompanied aloft by Santo's sister-in-law, Jean, whose daughters were flying today with Santo. We flew from the baseball fields at Spring St. for about 45 minutes and landed back at Spring St. in the parking lot. It was my first time landing at my launch site.

Saturday, November 4, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Al flew with me for the second time today. We launched from Spring St. in the company of 5 other balloons, and flew for about 45 minutes to a landing in the southeast corner of Southington about 5 miles away.

Saturday, October 21, 2000 Pleasure Flight

This morning I took Lisa, another of Santo's students who's crewed for me several times including the day of my first solo, for a ride. Launching from Panthorn Park, we flew approximately 12 miles at a fairly brisk pace, landing near the border between New Britain and Newington after about 55 minutes.

Sunday, October 15, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Today we made up for Andrew's short flight at the Plainville festival, with a flight of about an hour over the fall foliage in Southington. We flew from Panthorn Park, in the company of 11 other balloons, to a neighborhood on the east side of Southington about 3.5 miles away. Once again, a neighborhood full of children and their parents came out to see us and help us pack up.

Saturday, October 14, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Today Michele finally got her second ride in "Big Green." We flew from Panthorn Park about 9 miles more-or-less due east, to a landing in a large back yard in Middletown after a little more than an hour in the air, where the neighbors helped us pack up.

Sunday, October 8, 2000 Pleasure Flight

This morning, I took my aunt, visiting from Ireland, for a ride. We flew for about 50 minutes from Spring St to a gentle landing in a neighborhood in Kensington about 4.5 miles away. The whole neighborhood (or so it seemed!) helped us pack up.

Sunday, October 1, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Today I finally got the chance to give Carlos a ride. Carlos is another student of Santo's and he has crewed for me on several occasions (including both my first solo and my checkride), sometimes on short notice. We flew for almost an hour, along with 5 other balloons, out of Panthorn Park about 6 miles to a gentle landing at Timberland golf course.

Saturday, September 30, 2000
[narrative and maps only - pictures to come]
Pleasure Flight

This morning, I was accompanied aloft by Christine, Claude's wife, who had a really great time. Launching from Panthorn Park, we flew about 3 miles to the northeast landing in a cut field behind a house about 55 minutes later.

Saturday, September 23, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Today was Gaston's turn for a ride. We launched from Steve Ushchak's field in Cheshire, along with Robert Zirpolo and Santo. After about a 45-minute flight, we landed at Panthorne Park, a popular launch site at which I've even landed once before.

Sunday, September 17, 2000 Pleasure Flight

Eric got his first ride in "Big Green" this morning. After taking off from Spring St, we landed in Rocky Hill about 12 miles to the east after a flight of about 50 minutes that ended with a reasonably fast landing (about 10 mph). The winds were fast aloft, and we were zipping along at 20 mph only 500 feet off the ground. There were four other balloons flying with us this morning.

Saturday, September 9, 2000 Pleasure Flight

This morning it was Al's turn to fly. We launched from Panthorne Park, landing about an hour later at a small recreation park in the Yalesville section of Wallingford about 8 miles to the southeast. There were six other CLAS balloons flying with us this morning.

Saturday, August 26, 2000
Sunday, August 27, 2000
First Festival (3 flights)

This weekend, I took part in my first balloon festival, the annual Plainville CT Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival. All three scheduled flights (Sat am, Sat pm, Sun am) took place in perfect weather, and I managed to get three family members up for promised rides.

Sunday, August 6, 2000 First Passenger

Today I took aloft my first passenger since getting my license (technically the examiner is your first passenger during the checkride). We flew from Panthorne Park, landing in a cut hayfield just off Spring Street about 4.5 miles to the north-northeast after a little more than an hour.

Sunday, July 23, 2000 Solo Flight

Although I now have my license and can carry passengers, I'm planning some additional solo flights first, mainly as a confidence-building exercise. Today, I flew solo from Spring St for 40 minutes to a stand-up landing in a large farm field about 3.5 miles to the southeast.

Friday, July 14, 2000 Checkride

We flew for about 50 minutes from Steve Ushchak's field in Cheshire (same launch site as on April 14) north to a 10kt landing in the parking lot of Southington High School, about 5.5 miles away. It was my fastest landing so far, and not what I'd have expected (or chosen!) for my checkride, but it worked out well.

Oh, minor detail - I passed.

Thursday, July 13, 2000 Training Flight

A long training flight, a total of 90 minutes, this time with Erwin Dressel as instructor. We flew south-southeast from Erwin's yard in Cheshire, landing in a parking lot a few blocks east of the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) not far from the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford.

Sunday, July 9, 2000 Solo Flight

My fourth solo flight, yet again from Spring St. Today there were four balloons. Our overall track was southeast, almost exactly the same as last week This time I landed on Timberland Golf Course, while the other three balloons landed fairly close together in various fields a little past the golf course. I was in the air about 50 minutes today.

Sunday, July 2, 2000 Solo Flight

Another solo flight, yet again from Spring St. Again there were three balloons, although not the same three as yesterday. Our overall track was mostly southeast, but closer to east earlier in the flight. The other two balloons landed on Timberland Golf Course in Berlin, CT, while I landed on the site of a new home development about half a mile from the other balloons after a flight of about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Saturday, July 1, 2000 Solo Flight

Another solo flight, again from Spring St. Three balloons in the air this morning, heading mostly south. I landed after 40 minutes on the playing fields of a local school.

Saturday, June 24, 2000 First Solo Flight

I was expecting a short solo following a dual training flight and a mid-flight landing. Boy, was I surprised. 1 hour 15 minutes in the air, from Spring St. to a drop line landing in a neighborhood cul de sac in Cheshire.

Sunday, June 18, 2000 Fathers Day/Birthday

A shorter (35 minutes) training flight from Spring St. We surprised my daughter by inviting her into the basket at the last minute since today was her 11th birthday. We landed 3 miles to the south at Panthorne Park, one of our usual launch sites.

Thursday, June 8, 2000 Training flight

An hour-long training flight again from Spring St. to a neighborhood in Southington. The surface wind was from the north, but just 150 feet up, the wind was out of the southwest, which allowed us to go northeast for half of the flight, and then descend and hang a hard right to avoid going over the ridge.

Sunday, June 4, 2000 Training flight

An hour-long training flight from Spring St. in Southington to the sports fields at Plainville High School about 3 miles away. Winds were light and variable which made it interesting trying to get over the landing field.

Saturday, April 29, 2000 CLAS April Competition

A CLAS Challenge hare and hounds flight from Skylark Airport in East Windsor, Winds were light out of the north-east, and we flew a total of 3 miles in about 40 minutes, landing on a farm near the intersection of routes 5 and 191 (still in East Windsor!).

Friday, April 14, 2000 Training flight

A training flight from Cheshire to Southington. Light and variable winds again today, with a decent amount of steerage available. The total distance covered was about 2.5 miles, and we landed behind an elementary school.

Saturday, April 1, 2000 Maiden Flight

A shakedown flight for the new balloon. We flew in light and variable winds a total of about 1.5 miles in Southington, CT.

Sunday, March 19, 2000 Another CLAS Hare and Hounds event.

Taking off from Salmon River airport in Marlborough, CT, we worked the winds in the hills heading mostly west to a 6kt landing in Haddam, CT.

Wednesday, March 1, 2000 Tethering the new toy

OK, so this isn't really a flight in the normal sense. Even so, it was the first time we got the new balloon inflated. A fuel consumption test on the new balloon, during a short tether flight at Berkshire Balloons inspection facility in Cheshire, CT.

Saturday, January 8, 2000 A training flight during the CLAS Hare and Hounds event.

A light westerly breeze carried us into the rising sun about 8 miles from our launch site at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington, to a faster-than-expected (about 12kt) landing in a large field in Middletown.

Friday, November 19, 1999 A passenger (non-training) ride with Robert Zirpolo.

There was an overcast at about 7,000' so the pictures have not-so-great contrast. We flew from Cheshire to Hartford, picking up 25kt winds out of the southwest above 1,200', and landed at Pratt and Whitney's Rentschler Field, just across the Connecticut River from Hartford Brainard airport.

Friday, October 15, 1999 A spectacular flight over the Connecticut fall foliage.

Light northerly winds took us about 5 miles from our launch site in Southington just into Cheshire. Three balloons flew this morning; one of them carried a camera crew from Channel 30 in Hartford (NBC) and there's a video clip showing us in flight.

The bit in the middle A Long Time Passes...

There followed a long period of time when I was away from balloons, always hoping to return, but never seeming to have the right opportunities. College passed, I emigrated to the USA, went to graduate school, taught college for ten years and then, one day, at the Orange Country Fair...

1976-1977 Rockwell College Aviation Club

I first got involved with hot-air balloons at age 15 in my native Ireland. Here are some pictures and recollections from my time in my boarding school's balloon club from 1975 through 1977.

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