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Welcome to the US National Hot Air Balloon Championship Daily's

I will try to keep this updated after each flight

 

Leaving the 16th to go to Atlanta GA. Going to go to Atlanta to pick up the balloon I will be flying in the nationals.  It is a 90 thousand Cu Ft balloon.  I know it is a little bit large for competition but it will have to do.  Most of the other pilots will be flying balloons that are between 54 thousand cu ft and 77 thousand cu ft.  I will stay the night in Atlanta and finish the trip to Anderson in  the morning on Monday.
Preparations

Here are a few of the things I have been working on to prepare.

Marking a map with targets (492 to be exact)  First I have to cut the map into 24 page size pieces.  Next is to mark all the targets on each of the 24 pages.  Targets are most often the intersection of two roads.  This allows the scorekeepers (Observers) to find a specific spot to measure your baggie drop for a score.  Next is going to the print shop to make copies.  I am making three sets of this map.  One for me one for my brother Jon and one for my Father.  Next is Laminating the 24 pages and then taping them back together into one map.

 

I will also be creating a Map Board.  During your flight you must have a place to work.  Many times the targets will change during the flight since the wind is changing and quite often you must pick different targets while your flying.  If you have a map board it is like having a Desk to work on while your flying.

Of course you have to have a spot to put your baggies. You may have to drop several markers (Baggies) during each flight.  Markers must be dropped in order on the targets.  You can not drop a yellow marker on the first target if that target has been designated as a blue marker drop.  So keeping your baggies in order is a must.

 

I have built an entire new inflation fan.  You simply must have everything work perfect.  Having a new fan just gives you one less thing to worry about at the launch site.

 

Arriving in Anderson Monday July 17th First day in town I have about 30 targets to visit.  My niece Hailey and I have spent over two weeks preparing the maps with all the potential targets we may use in the area for competition.  Out of over 500 targets we have only about 30 that we are unsure of or need to be clarified by actually visiting the site of the target.  So I will spend most of Monday running around the city visiting potential target locations.  Click here to see the competition Map
Day One!

 

We are in Town!!

Well,  Mike and I got to town about 945 am today.  Plenty of time for him to get checked into his room and me to go check out a few targets and get my stuff organized.  To my surprise there were already twelve balloons in town.  They have made a flight that morning already.  

Drinks are served

All the Electronics

Mom is in the house!

Basket at the hotel.

TA Ready to Go.

After a few hours of running around looking at targets I came back to the hotel to get checked in.  And of course set up the margarita machine...

I unloaded all the gear and set up my recharging station on the table.  Put my clothes away and got settled into my room.  Mike went to his Observer Briefing,  This is a training class for the score keepers.  His training class went on for FIVE and a half hours!  They went over all the information needed to score the pilots.

Mom and Dad got in around 2:45 with my sister Jule and Nephew Tyler.  My sister went straight for the margarita machine!  

I was able to claim a nice parking spot right in front of my room.  Spent a couple of hours down at the briefing room going over the maps and marking all the no-fly zones and power lines on the map.

Brother Jon and Niece Hailey showed up about 6pm.  Jule was sure happy to see her little girl for the first time in a couple of months.

We are currently loading up to go and fly.  Talk to you all later today.

 

Jeff

 

 

 

 

First Flight.

Media Flight 

Well we had our first run today.  It was a flight to a target placed on the runway of the airport.  All three pilots made the airport and made drops on the target and then landed together on one of the Taxiways.  Great Run!  I spent about 15 minutes hovering over the target and then tossed my baggie short of the target.  POO!  Father came in on the target and looks like he tossed his marker right on the X.  there were only two markers on the X when I came past.  Jon fell short of the target due to the winds shifting as he came in.  Jon still dropped his marker on the runway!  Great run by all the TA Pilots.  Cant wait for the competition to start.

Today's flight was a Media flight.  We were taking the local Sponsors and the media, (tv newspaper and county officials) for a flight.  I even took the property owners son with me for the flight.  Poor Boy..  We pulled in to a farm and ask this young man if we could use his field to launch.  He said OK.  I asked to you want to go?  He said are you kidding?  I said NO  Come and fly with Team Thompson...  He turned off the tractor and came right over.  I ask " Shouldn't you tell someone your leaving?  A big smile came over his face and he said "Better tell my dad"...  

Here are the three competitors for Team Thompson.  Hear no See no and Speak no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More later.

Just a quick update for the late gang.  Two Top TEN Thompson's today.  Dad and I finished 5th and 8th in this mornings event.  Jon is the slacker.  Finished in 18th.  Off to bed for me.  Tomorrow is the first day of competition.  GAME ON.  Thanks to all who have sent mail and wishes of good luck.  Means the world to all of us.

Jeff

First Flight This flight was a THREE PART flight.  We all had a common target to hit then we had to choose two additional fly on targets.  These fly on targets had to be

Dropping like a rock

declared to the scorekeeper before we launched.  We had to start a minimum of 2K away from the common target and each of our additional targets had to be 1K beyond the common target.

We went out into the area we believed should be a good area to launch and found a shopping center parking lot where there was enough room for us to all three launch and proceeded to get in the air.  The launch site was a good one since we all made a great pass at the first target.  I was in first and dropped my marker about 200 feet to the left of the target.  Dad  next followed and dropped his mark on the center of the X and Jon followed with 12ft drop.  

At our next goal I dropped about 93meters Jon was about 86 meters and dad was right in the road with a 2 to 3 meter drop.

About that time the wind began to shift hard left and none of us made a good drop on the last target.  I was about 1600 meters away and I am unsure what Dad and Jon did.

Results as of the first flight.  Jim Thompson 5th place over all.  Jon 15th and Jeff 22nd.

Wednesday Evening Flight.

Originally this flight was suppose to be a two part Pilot Declared Goal.  We would all be launching from the same field but were able to pick one target for the First Goal and two targets for our second goal.  We had to declare in writing three goals prior to lifting off.  One of the three was your first target or goal and the second two had to be three kilometers past the first target.  Your first target had to be at least one km past the common launch field.  We were all out at the field by 530pm.  Everyone was launching Pi-balls and watching them go straight up!  I mean STRAIGHT UP 4,000 ft.  At 6pm a meeting was called and the evening task was officially put on hold.  Another briefing would be held at 6:30 to determine what if any tasks would be called.  about 6:05 the wind began to blow.  And blow.  By 6:30 a decision was made to run one PDG (pilot declared goal) and each pilot could choose two targets or goals.  Off to the races we went.  The yellow flag went up immediately. (5 min warning to the opening of the launch

TA2 & TA3 launching on Wed Eve

 window).  Everyone was scrambling to get the balloons airborne before the wind would quit altogether.  Team Thompson all chose the same two targets and I took off first.  The above photo was taken as I launched from the field.  I climbed steady up to about 2400 feet before I found any stable wind layers and only barely to the right of my right most goal.  I was tempted to drop back down to the deck to try to use some left and go to my left goal but chose to stick it out up high.  You can find your target better from up high.  Dad followed next and Jon (TA3) took up the rear.  As we flew we found winds of 14 to 18 mph and I was going to be at my goal in about 9 minutes.  No time to change my mind so just held my flight level and looked for my target intersection.  After about 4 minutes that felt like two hours I spotted the intersection that I had chosen as my right target.  I got a compass reading on it and was heading just to the right of it.  I held my altitude until I was just about on top of it and then began a very aggressive decent.  Dropped my marker from about 1200 feet.  Watched my marker fly right at the center of the intersection and then over it and then over the house and finally coming to rest in the back yard of the home on the corner.  Should have thrown earlier.  Final mark was 93meters from the intersection.  Not to bad for an evening flight.  Turned around to see Jon going in for a drop.  Dad had lowered his altitude looking for a left to go to target two. (the left most of our choices) and found that he could not hold left and then came back up for more right.  Dad and I eventually landed together.

Current standings.  Dad dropped from 5th to 9th.  Jon went from 15th to 17th and I went from 22nd to 19th.  More to come.

Day Two

Thursday

Thursday Am Flight.

OK  We are now into day two.  Things are starting to get a little tense.  The tasks are getting much harder.  Here is a diagram of today's task.

Each pilot had to fly into a common goal.  Pilots choice of launch spot.  Launch had to be 3km from common goal.  Each pilot had to choose a goal (PDG) at least three km past the common goal.  We were allowed to choose two targets.  The target we chose would also be the first leg of an elbow.  An elbow is where you try to fly back the way you came.  This makes your choice of PDG very important since it will be the starting point of your Elbow.  We all came in on the first target flying side by side.  Tree topping for left.  Got to the field and I actually had to drop my marker around Jon.  Jon waited a little longer and dropped right on the X.  Dad was further off but in the target field.  Then it was climb climb climb to find the layer to take us to the furthest right of our two chosen pilot declared goals.  As we were about half way to the PDG the radio went blank.  We could not talk to anyone nor could we talk to each other.  Someone was jamming the frequency.  The radio signal was so powerful we could not even talk over it between each other in the balloons.  Come to find out that my sister had put the microphone in the cup holder in the van depressing the talk button.  This went on for almost 30 minutes.

I turned on my backup handheld radio and switched it to channel two.  After a short while Jon came on the radio and said "TA1 are you on two?"  It did not take long before Jon's wife Sandy figured it out and we were able to get her to flag down my sister and clear the radio.  We all came in on the pilot declared target and made great drops.  I dropped my marker at the feet of my ground crew sitting just outside the van next to the intersection that was my target.  Jon was just north and father was just south of the target.

Now it was hug the tree time.  We had to get as far left as we could before the left quit.  We spent about 35 minutes just going from tree to tree getting as low as we could without touching anything and getting disqualified.  We had to get three km away from the PGD before we could drop our center marker of our three that made up the elbow.  We all three dropped our markers in a little subdivision just north of the airport.  As soon as we made our drops it was CLIMB CLIMB CLIMB.  Up to 4450 ft to go as much to the northeast as we could.  We found a nice layer there on a heading of 040 degrees.  We hung out in this layer for another 35 to 40 minutes to get our 3KM distance from the previous marker then we all dropped like rocks.  We had been in the air for over two hours and needed to be on the ground.  The problem was that as you descend you begin to go backwards toward your previous marker but you don't want to drop from too high or you will never find the marker and not get any score at all.  A Zero score here will kill you!  I was able to spot a subdivision being built with only roads and no homes.  Dad was able to spot a warehouse area and drop safe in there.  Jon was forced to drop into an area of homes.  We all landed and the crews were there to pick us up right away.  We all went back to get our last markers scored and were all happy happy.

We found my marker and scored it and got on the radio to let TA2 and TA3 know we were heading back to drop off our score keeper.  Mother came on the radio and told us that Jon has not found his last marker and needed our help to search.  So all three teams with crew and scorekeepers headed over to the neighborhood where Jon thought is marker had fallen.  We had a 6 block area to search and all took off in search looking on rooftops and backyards and anywhere we could.  We had been looking for almost 45 minutes and hope was getting thin when Jon came on the radio and said "Looks like I am buying my wife dinner!  We found it, but we have a problem it is up in a tree!

The marker had gotten caught in the top of a tree.  A BIG TREE!  The marker was more than 85 feet in the air!  No way to climb up and worried about getting penalty points for loosing a marker we were all in poor spirits.  We even tried throwing small apples at it to knock it down but it was soooo high up in the tree that we could not even throw an apple that high!  After several phone calls to the scoring officials we determined that it was not a lost marker but just an unrecoverable marker.  We scored the drop as if it had fallen to the ground.

We just found out a few minutes ago that JON WON the elbow part of the flight.!  Father finished 3rd and I took 4th.  Three of the top 4 were TEAM THOMPSON!!

On the three tasks this morning here are the results.

Dad.  15th 25th and 3rd

Jon 8th 27th and 1st

Jeff 16th 13th and 4th.

Yes the TA TEAM Smoked the elbow placing 1st 3rd and 4th!!!

The current standings for the overall 

Jim Thompson 11th  Jon Thompson  13th and Jeff Thompson 16th

Thursday EVENING flight.

Cancelled due to Thunderstorms.  Time to hit the margarita machine.

 DAY 3

Friday AM

Well the morning started early as usual.  I was up by 3:40am without an alarm.  We had all gotten a good night sleep with the cancellation of last nights flight.  We have looked ahead at the weather and things do not look real good for tonight or Saturday so we were all wondering what tasks awaited us.

When we got into the pilot briefing room we found 5 markers on the table for each pilot.  It was going to be a busy morning!!  We had a Pilot Declared Goal then a Fly In to a Gordon Bennit then a Hesitation Waltz with Two Judge Declared goals then two Pilot declared goals after that!  This is going to take a little planning. 

First thing was to determine where would be a good Pilot Declared Goal on the way into the Airport where the Gordon Bennit task would be.

We had to pick a target at least two kilometers away from the airport then pick a launch site that was 1km away from that.  We found several targets that would fit the bill and we all loaded up and headed out for what was going to be a long and VERY busy flight.  Above is TA2 and TA3 launching.

No sooner than I had gotten in the air my sister calls on the radio debating my target numbers.  She was telling me that the numbers I had given were for a different intersection that what the observer had on her map.  FRANTIC! I went to work on my map as the UTM grid numbers I had declared were read back to me over the radio.  Then I realized I could care less what is on the observers map.  My map my numbers are right!  We spent weeks making sure!  I did the calculations to double check just in case and my UTM Grid numbers were right and my target ID number was the correct intersection I had chosen.  I thanked my sister for the panic attack and for taking my mind off actually flying the balloon for a bit.

We had a real slow 025 to 040 on the surface and up to about 800ft.  Then it went right to 065 and started to pick up speed to around 9 to 12 knots.  At about 1300 it went left to 035 and increased speed to 24 knots.  We had to climb over 2400 before it started to come back to the right and we found a layer at 2650 going 28 knots at 089 degrees.  Let me tell you when your scooting along at 28 kts that 1km to the first target goes by in just a few minutes.  No time to be debating targets sis!!  I was coming in on the first target real fast and trying to get the balloon to drop as fast as I could and sliding off to the right in a hurry.  Took it down all the way to the ground to try to work some left back to the intersection.  This first goal was a gravity drop.  You could not throw the marker you just had to lay it over the side and let go!  I placed the baggie over the edge and held onto it with my left hand flying the balloon with my right hand.  I had two large trees I had to clear just before I got to the intersection and just as I started to go over the trees I let the marker slip out of my hand.  I could not feel the tail thru my gloves and it just slipped out.  Worse yet it got caught in the top of the TREE!  I was sooooo mad!  Fortunately the tree was just off to the side of the road so the difference was only a few feet!  Now it was time to climb and get into that 090 layer to get to the airport and make a run on the Gordon Bennit Task.  At 2600 the speed was around 28 to 30 knots so the 2km to the airport would only take about 10 minutes.  Now keep in mind I am flying in a 90,000 cu/ft balloon alone.  Once again I had a hard time getting it to drop so I did not get far enough right before I had to start making a decent.  Came in lined up good on the target but started slipping over to the left this time.  The way a Gordon Bennit works is that you have an X on the field and there is an area where you can not drop surrounding the X.  You need to drop your marker as close to the X as you can without entering the buffer zone around the X.  UNLESS you think you can drop your marker directly on the actual fabric that makes up the X and then you can drop on the X.  I was down the runway about 100 feet from the X and 60 feet outside the buffer zone.  This goal was also a Gravity Drop.  You could not throw the marker you just had to drop it.  YES I held onto it this time!

Now it is time to Climb again and go for the next task the Hesitation Waltz.  This is a JDG or Judge Declared goal where you have the choice of TWO targets.  You have to choose the one you think you can get to.  On the way to this target you must choose two PDG's (Pilot Declared Goals) and right the UTM coordinates on the tail of the marker you will drop at your chosen JDG.  To add a little more stress to this process I had to wait till Jon and Dad to clear the airport to confirm on what targets we wanted to choose for our first set of PDG's.

So now I am flying along again trying to get more right and doing my map work to choose two more targets beyond the next JDG that I am approaching at 24knots.  I drop down with a good line on the target and start slipping left.  Too late for me to go back up and correct so I just find as much right as I can and head for the last of my JDG goals and the last of the Gravity Drops.  Thank Goodness!!

I ended up just across the street from the target which was placed in a soccer field.  Dropped my marker at the feet of my chase team and started to climb. As you can see from the photo I was not that far away from the target.  I was able to watch my father make a great run on the target right up until he bumped another balloon right over the target and he bounced away from it.  I think he still got 8th place and I got 16th.

Now it is climb again to head to our first Pilot Declared Goal.  With Dad beside me and Jon not to far behind we had a short 3km to the next target.  We chose a target that we had not seen before so the search on the horizon to find the location was difficult.  Once I had the target located I realized we were not going to see it until we were right on top of it.  We had a large batch of trees and some big apartment buildings in front of the intersection.  We all made great approaches and great drops.  All three TA Team Captains made top ten drops on this target.  Now for the 5th and final time it was CLIMB CLIMB CLIMB to get to the last target.  We had chosen a target that was only 1.4km from our last goal and that was just a little too close!  The wind at 26knots made it a very fast 6 minutes to the last drop.  Falling at over 800 FPM I leveled off at around 100 feet and threw my marker as far and hard as I could.  In fact I threw over the intersection and to the other side of the road with a 12 foot drop from the center.  Now it is time to find a landing spot. Somehow father had gotten in front of me and found a great spot along the grounds of a community golf course so I said what the heck that will work.  I lowered my altitude to roof top level and turned nicely right down next to dad.  Jon came along in about ten minutes and set his balloon right next to dad on the other side.  14km over 5 targets and a one hour flight and we all land closer together than we started.

Overall standing right now.  Jim Thompson 15th  Jeff Thompson 16th and Jon Thompson 17th.  How is that for a tight group?

Here is the flight map with targets.  First target was target 635.  Second was the Gordon Bennit at the airport.  Third was the JDG on the soccer field.  Fourth was a PDG #206 and our last target #5 was PDG at 8-5.

 

Friday night flight CANCELLED Due to Potential Thunderstorms.

 

 Day 4

Sat AM flgiht

The morning flight was CANCELLED due to a line of thunderstorms falling apart just north of our area.  As it turned out it was a very good call.  Sunrise came with a flurry of gusts and low ceilings.

So we are cleaning trucks and recharging batteries and more or less recovering.  Looks like we may get another flight in tonight!!!  I don't know how many of you have been checking the BFA website for the actual points,  I am just ONE (1) point behind my father!!  So if we get to fly tonight????  Who knows???

Here is the rest of the gang amusing themselves.

 

Sat PM Flight

Well, We had another tough and challenging set of tasks tonight.  We all started from a CLP (common launch point) and had two tasks.  First was a JDG with two options. One to the south and one to the north.  The second part of the task was a maximum distance within a scoring area.  The object was to fly to the farthest corner of a specific area and drop a marker.  To make it just a little more challenging your marker had to be dropped within 25 meters of a road. 

I took off first and started to climb to find a right turn to head to the southern target and then head to the southern end of the Maximum scoring area.  I climbed to almost 4 thousand feet without finding a good right turn to get us to the southern target.  There were several small layers going left and right below me but none of them were consistent enough to rely on.  I decided that if we had any chance of hitting one of the JDG's it would have to be the northern one.  I found a right turn about 5700 feet and began to turn right for the north target.  Dad and Jon followed along.  About 5800 we found a 124 degree heading.  That was enough for us to get to the target but we would be real real high up to drop our markers.  The first target was a gravity drop so we would be unable to thow the marker if we were off the target any.  I started my drop about a quarter mile out.  Falling about 700 FPM I went all the way down and dropped my marker about a block before the target while I was still about 1200 feet up.  You know your falling fast when you keep up with your marker for a short while.  Father came in on the target and dropped his marker from 4 THOUSAND FEET and lost sight of it before it hit the ground.  Jon dropped his and it went off to the south east of the target.  Then we all climbed back up into the 124 degree layer at 5800 feet and were trying to get to the southern end of the max distance area.  Looking at the GPS we found that we only had 3 degrees to spare for the south end of the area so I decided that it would be better for us to drop back down and head for the northern leg of the area.  I radioed Jon and Dad and said lets plug in one of the targets we have in that northern leg and head for that.  At the same time we were also watching two thunderstorm cells developing to our south east and one to the north west.  Dad radioed to the chase team and had them check with the officials about the weather conditions and if the flight may be aborted.  We were given the all clear and continued on.  This last drop had to be on or within 25 meters of a road.  We all dropped from way up high and dropped markers as we fell.  Dad dropped and landed almost immediately.  Jon was farther to the east and made a great drop right in the corner of the scoring area.  I found a small hay field to set down in but the ground crew had to go find my marker first.  The area was congested horribly with traffic from the chase teams and the local residents who came out to chase balloons since it was a Saturday night.  I was able to keep the balloon upright and the land owner came out with his kids to see us.  He was able to give me directions that I could relay to the chase team so they could get into the field to pick me up.  About this time TA2 called on the radio with troubles.  Someone had told my mother that all the fields where dad had landed were locked up.  We told them as soon as we got packed up we would head that way.  As we were packing away the skies started to get real ugly.  Just as we were leaving the wind went nuts.  20 to 25 mph.  We got a call on the radio from my mother, she had found a landowner who had keys to the gates and would let her in to get dad.  Jon was on the ground and his crew was there and packing away.  I returned to where I had dropped my marker and we went in and got a score on it and recovered the marker and headed back to the hotel.  We then got a call on the radio from TA2 letting us know they had to go back to the first JDG to find dads marker.  He had lost track of it on the way down and we needed to find it so he could get a score on it.  About then is when the RAIN let loose.  Pouring down, we got back to the the north target area and found Mom and Dad out in the woods across the street from the target looking for his marker.  Hailey was out in the woods with grandma and we grabbed our flashlights and went out to help.  The rain was fairly light by then but the searchers were already soaked.  After a while father called off the search.  We went back to the hotel and dropped off some of the crew and headed to refuel.  It was now nearly 10pm.  We left a handheld with one of the crew at the hotel and headed to refuel.  They had stopped fueling due to the lightning in the area.  They resumed fueling when we got in line.  We pulled up to the trucks and the skies opened up again.  They stopped fueling right then.  There we were Jon and I in our trucks and waiting for the rain to stop.  One of the crew called on the radio to inform us that Fathers marker was scored on the field.  He had actually hit the scoring field and did not even realize it.  All that wandering around in the woods in the rain looking for a lost marker was unnecessary.  He had actually hit close enough to the target that the other scoring teams had already marked him and retrieved his marker.  Hard to judge where your marker will land when you pitch it out at 4,000 feet.  He does this often.  I have never seen anyone who can toss a marker out of a balloon that high up in the  air and still hit the targets.  I have offered to take him with me and let him toss my markers!!!

So all of Team Thompson Scored and scored fairly well on the  two tasks.  

OK  Here are the results as they were posted Sunday Morning.  Jim Thompson TA2 13th place.  That is humorous because his banner number was 13.  Jeff Thompson is 14th place and that also was my banner number.  Jon Thompson TA3 is 15th place and that was also his Banner number!!

 

Sunday morning flight has been cancelled due to poor visibility and thunderstorms in the area.  It has been announced that many of the marked drops from the maximum distance drop task needed to be re-measured before they will post the final results.  None of us expect our results to change but we will let you know!!

O and by the way Dave...  Not a mark on your balloon!!  Thank you!

 

 The Final Results With the re-measure of the last nights distance drops father has moved into 12th place overall.  I stayed in 14th and Jon stayed in 15th place.  Not a bad finish for Team Thompson.  All Three pilots in the top 15 in the country.  

Left to Right.  Jule (sister) Jeff (Me TA1) Mom ( Connie / Sarge) Dad (Jim TA2) Jon (Brother TA3) Sandy (Jon's Wife) Tyler (Jule's Son)

In Front: Austin (Jon's Son) Audra (Jon's Daughter) Hailey (Jule's Girl)

 

Thanks to all who made this happen.  Thank you to Dave Sullivan who loaned me his baby to fly.  Thanks to Bob Willamoski for taking care of my passengers while I was gone.  Thanks to all of you who came to my site to keep up to date and follow along with my adventure.  Thanks to Jule Ty for being my crew for the week.  Thanks to Hailey who worked for hours and hours helping me with the maps and spreadsheets of targets.  Thanks to Jon and Sandy for being there with the kids.  Thanks to Mike for riding with up and back and taking his time to be an observer for the event. Most of all THANKS MOM & DAD for getting us all together for this incredible family affair. I hope each of you will treasure this event as much as I know I will.

I love you all!

Jeff

 

Hard to imagine that it was 30 years ago when this gang first went to the national championships!

We now have second and third generation of the same family involved in the sport of Ballooning!

O by the way..  Yes DAD your the second generation!!!!

 
 
 

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