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Hot-air balloon pilot improvises landing
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 09/07/2007 02:58:26 AM EDT
Friday, September 07
GREAT BARRINGTON — A hot-air balloon pilot who missed his landing spot at the Chesterwood museum off Route 183 found a safe spot on a grassy patch just north of the Monument Mills complex in Housatonic.
There was a fluster of worry and surprise at first among local residents, who hurried outdoors Wednesday evening to see the descending multicolored craft and heard its dragonlike blasts of gas, but the balloon was in no danger, according to the pilot and his flight instructor.
Tim Taylor of Lee, a retired Navy commander who is pursuing a balloon pilot certificate, landed safely alongside Route 183 next to the Housatonic River, with some radio guidance from instructor Paul Sera of Worthington.
Sera had already landed his own balloon at Chesterwood, about a mile to the north, and was communicating with Taylor by radio as Taylor's "chase car" followed Route 183 along the river.
"This was just 'ballooning 101,' " said Sera, who had set off with Taylor from Richmond for the evening flight on a breeze that would bring them to the Stockbridge landing spot.
A historic landing spot
Sera said both balloons were aiming for the open spot at
Chesterwood, the historic home of sculptor Daniel Chester French. Sera made his landing, but Taylor missed the open area by about 100 feet and had to keep flying with the wind. But night was falling, and he needed a landing pad free of trees and telephone wires.
Sera, familiar with the area, knew the breeze would draw the balloon into the Housatonic River path, a gully on the back side of Monument Mountain. He also knew of the grassy patch by the mill and advised Taylor to keep a lookout.
When he got there, Taylor dropped a 200-foot rope from his basket to his ground crew, and they pulled his balloon gently to the ground.
Around 8:30 Wednesday night, Taylor was busy with his chase car crew, rolling up his 65-cubic-foot balloon and packing up the basket that had been carrying him. He was none the worse for the adventure — aside from a filmy sweat on his brow — as he packed his balloon into a trailer waiting on the street.
Sera said he has done 1,300 balloon flights in 17 years and is licensed as a commercial pilot and instructor. Taylor, his student, has completed his required training and independent flying time and is about to take a test for private pilot certification with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sera also was eager for the chance to plug an event this weekend in Northampton at Look Park, a three-day balloon festival running Friday through Sunday. "Can we eat now?" Taylor interjected to Sera, after his balloon was packed safely away.
To reach Ellen G. Lahr: email@example.com, (413) 528-3660.