Monday, January 29, 2007

Gas Balloon Record

Now here is something I could really get into.

It must be absolutly fantastic in complete silence.

Record-breaking balloon flight attempted from Lake Elsinore

By: Cathy Redfern - For The Californian

LAKE ELSINORE ---- In what started as a wager between college buddies 10
years ago, two men Sunday launched a helium-powered balloon from Lake
Elsinore toward North Carolina, seeking to break an international record for
the longest such flight.

Pilots Andy Cayton, 51, of Savannah, Ga., and Samuel Canders, 29, of
Washburn, Maine, took off in the late afternoon from the Lake Elsinore Sky
Dive at Skylark Airport, chasing the record with a crucial cross-country
weather forecast that looked cold, but fair and dry.

They plan to be in the air for 60 hours and to cover some 2,300 miles,
Cayton said, adding that icing will be the biggest challenge since any
significant moisture will ground them.

The men plan to fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet, in
temperatures well below freezing. The white balloon, owned by Cayton and a
partner, is the standard size for racing gas balloons, but is smaller than
the more commonly seen hot air balloons, said Jim Bilbrey of Adventure
Flights, who hosted the flight.

Canders and Cayton are out to best the 2,134-mile record set in 2005 by a
team from Belgium, Bilbrey said.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration representative on hand
Sunday, the military-trained pilots have a good chance.

"Very few go after records," said Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, who works
part-time for the FAA. "Andy is very meticulous and persistent."

The men chose Lake Elsinore for its weather and geography, said Cayton, a
veteran balloon pilot. He was trained by Bilbrey 10 years ago when he came
to California to get his gas balloon license after retiring from the Army.

But it was the youngster Canders who made a wager while in college that he
would fly coast-to-coast in a balloon by the time he was 30 or submit to a
tattoo artist, Canders said. He said he turns 30 in March.

The two pilots met just last month, but Canders said he guessed they would
"get acquainted pretty quick" in the 6-foot-by-4-foot basket, in which they
will be accompanied by their camping gear, a radio and lots of warm clothes.

Canders' enthusiasm was infectious as he talked about the flight, though he
joked that he might be better off just getting the tattoo.

"I'm excited," he said. "I can't wait."

Both pilots have piloted just about everything, but Canders has not flown
balloons much and calls himself "just ballast" on this flight. But he is
also the sponsor of the flight. Organizers said the helium alone costs about

He called this flight "Andy's show." Cayton last year captured the national
title in the major race for gas balloons and is planning to go after the
international prize this fall.

Cayton said he has been flying gas balloons for four years. He said piloting
the balloon is "a real physics test." As much as 1,000 pounds of sand
ballast might be pitched from the basket to control the balloon's flight
pattern, while a valve is used to let out the helium.

As for the competition, he likened it to golf.

"You are really out competing against yourself more than anything," he said.

There are about 180 potential records for balloon flying, said the FAA's
Bradley, and they are getting broken more frequently due to technological

He said the two were lucky to get out Sunday, the planned day, for their
"camping trip in the air," as some wait months for favorable weather.
Sunday's trip was postponed from dawn to dusk, the times favored for
launching because of the calmer winds.

The balloon was made by Bert Padelt of Allentown, Penn., who was also on
hand for the launch, as were Cayton's friends Barbara Fricke and Peter Cuneo
of Albuquerque. All pointed to the importance of forecasting help from Day
Weather of Wyoming.

The pilots, after hours of inflating and preparation, said in general they
like gas balloons because they can travel much farther and are much quieter
than hot-air balloons.

Slowing from his packing and talk of patches and glue and
industrial-strength Saran wrap, Cayton paused, remembering past trips.

"It's the quiet," he said. "You can hear the coyotes from 18,000 feet."

To track the men's progress online, visit For
information on the international gas balloon world, visit

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