Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another low flying balloon story, Chico

Seems that local papers can't get enough of low flying balloons.

I am finding rather funny to see how the Google ads on the main page change
with every clamity reported. All that emergency gear, so little time ;-)

Residents startled as hot air excursion pilot hovers low over Chico

By GREG WELTER - Staff Writer
Article Launched:11/07/2006 12:00:00 AM PST

A New Hampshire transplant thinking about starting a hot air excursion
service in Chico floated a trial balloon -- so to speak -- over the city
Monday morning, but got more attention than he might have bargained for.
Police officers, fire crews and dozens of residents followed the balloon
shortly before 9 a.m. as it floated low near the intersection of East Avenue
and The Esplanade, then attempted a landing at Fair View High School.

Pilot Jim Thibodeau, who runs The Wings Group Balloon Co., said he'd been in
the air about 90 minutes and was starting to lose the wind, which meant his
ability to steer the balloon was diminishing.

He said he had enough fuel to stay in the air another hour, but directing
the balloon would have become increasingly difficult.

He sent a member of his crew to Fair View for permission to land, but school
office manager Carol Burns said clearance first had to be obtained from the
district office.

By the time she got it, Burns said the balloon ascended and floated away.

With a chase car tracking it, Thibodeau flew just above treetop level until
he spotted an open parking lot near the Department of Motor Vehicles office
off Cohasset Road.

Thibodeau set the balloon down with no problem,and said he was never really
in any trouble.
He said he took off from a vacant field adjacent to Joshua Tree Lane, and
had notified the Chico Municipal Airport tower that he would be in its
airspace for a short time.

Once he got over north Chico, Thibodeau, a balloon pilot for 15 years, said
there were really no restrictions on where he could fly.

Thibodeau said Monday's was his first flight since moving to Chico about a
month ago, but added he's been driving around the city the last few weeks
trying to get permission from land owners to use various takeoff and landing

Thibodeau said it took about two hours to pack up the balloon Monday and get
it back onto his trailer. That process might have been slowed by the dozens
of bystanders, curious to know if the balloon had crashed in the parking

The pilot called Monday's flight "just routine."

Staff writer Greg Welter can be reached at 896-7768 or

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