Balloon Flights in the Disney World area of Orlando Florida.  Rides Flown Daily at sunrise in Central Florida. Over35 Years Experience!

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Welcome to the Carolina Balloon Fest.

I will try to keep this updated at least twice a day.

Thursday AM  10-23-08 I am sitting here at the kitchen table looking over the 8 lists I have made to keep me from forgetting anything.  All of our trucks are clean and ready for brother Jon to use while we are gone.  Looks like he will have better weather here than we will have up there.  Jon will have three balloons flying each day this weekend and the forecast looks great.  On the other hand the forecast for the balloon event is calling for rain beginning Friday afternoon and continuing thru Saturday night.

Our balloon and truck are loaded.  We are flying Vista the Aerostar 126.  We should be on the road by 6am so we can get into town around 5pm and get settled into our rooms and out for a nice dinner.

The crew will include Christina, Steve, Capt Kim and Kelly his wife.  This will be fun for Kim since he is now a pilot and will no doubt have a whole different view of things.  I will try to get him up on the flights when ever I can.  Talk to you again from the road tomorrow.  Jeff.

Thursday PM Well we have made it.  Trip was smooth and uneventful other than running thru some rain just north of Jacksonville.  We have unloaded the van and are getting settled into our rooms.  I have the electronics all set up so radio's, camera, cell phone and all are plugged in.  We need to run a few errands and then out for dinner and an early night.  Here is a great shot of the gang on the way up catching a quick nap.  Christine said I have the softest pillows she has ever felt.

My cell card for the laptop is working great.  I have no trouble logging onto the web and even loading up photos. 

Friday AM


The morning dawned to a grey sky.  Rain was off in the distance and the wind was blowing a little bit.  Around 12 balloons were in town for the media flight.  Several went off to local schools to talk to the kids and a few of us went out to fly.  Several pilots flew even though we knew the flight would be short and landings were going to be quick ones.  We chose not to fly since we had a large balloon and no passengers but our whole crew jumped in to help the others who flew.  In fact Kim got into Tom Tommesittis balloon and went for a flight.  Maggie was on the field and was a great help as well.  We chased the balloons to the Airport and were there for the landings, helped with recovery and now we are going off to get some breakfast.  Everyone who flew made nice safe landings at the airport and Kim was treated to another whole pilot experience.  All had fun and can not wait for tonight.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel restaurant.

 More later.

Friday PM Well the flight tonight was cancelled due to weather.  Cloudy windy and rainy.  Just not a good night for the flight.  We did however have a good time out at the balloon field and I have learned a few valuable lessons.  First and foremost, be very careful what I say around my crew.  I made the joke that we should get a pumpkin and carve it and stick it on the antenna on the van.  Well they did.  In fact Kim then got a light for the pumpkin and it now glows as we drive down the road.  Yes a real pumpkin on the top of the van and even at 65 miles per hour is stays on top of the van. The light inside can be set for white and or red flashing.  It was a hit at the field tonight. 

Maggie was also a big hit.  She played with the Frisbee for hours.  Ran around and said hi to everyone and wore herself out completely.  She is passed out on the bed right now.

We set up the TABT and sat under it out of the rain and had a good time.  Some of the other pilots had small tissue paper balloons and it did not take long before there were bunches of pilots and crews gathered around watching them launch the balloons into the sky.  The weather does not look the greatest for the morning flight be we will be up and at em early and out to the field to see what mother nature has in store for us.  Everyone had a good time and are all asleep already.  Light weights...  More mid day tomorrow.

Nite Nite

Saturday AM


NO FLY.  The weather was foggy and rainy.  We knew when we left the hotel that there was very little chance of us getting to fly.  We went out to the field for roll call and as we thought the weather would cancel the flight.  This gives us the chance to get back to the hotel and get things cleaned up and restocked for tonight.  Weather looks better for tonight and we have a glow at the field after the flight so it looks like a long evening ahead for all of us.  This photo of Maggie pretty much sums up the morning.  More later.
Saturday PM We had an exciting afternoon and evening.  We went out to the field about 1:30 for the afternoon brunch.  It was more of a meal than a brunch. Outback Steakhouse was the caterer and the steak was fantastic.  After the brunch was the afternoon briefing where they told us the weather was great and the flight was a go!  Standing around out in the field was a different story.  The wind was blowing and blowing!  It was to be a two part task with a hare and hound and a JDG. We went out on the field and tried to find a good spot.  laid out the balloon and waited.  The wind was still doing 12 with gusts of 14 to 16.  A far cry from the 5 to 7 they told us in the briefing. I had assigned all the crew jobs including putting two people on the crown.  We were in for a rough ride.  Only two of my four passengers showed up so Kim was going along. First of all I needed the weight and secondly it would give Kim some valuable experience in afternoon thermals.  The Hare launched and then several balloons tried to go after.  Most balloons failed to get airborne.  We saw one get burned and one inflation fan got knocked over and was pouring out blue smoke as they tried to continue.  We waited and were patient. I knew we were never going to see the Hare balloon again until we came in for the drop on the target if we could find it.  As a few of the balloons behind me began their inflation I knew I could use them as a wind break and so we all swung into action.  As usual my crew did not disappoint as we put that balloon up in about 8 minutes and completely under control.  Got the passengers on board and off we went. As you can see in the photos many balloons were still lying flat on the ground and not even trying to inflate.  Not real sure if I blame them at all.  We made a real aggressive launch.  We spotted the first target and made a nice run on it.  Sure wish I had Dad along to toss those markers.  Dropped to late and passed the target about 60 feet just outside the legs.  Spotted the hare balloon in the distance and made an approach.  Once again tossed my marker a little late and floated past the target again by about 60 feet.  The winds and thermals were terrible.  You could see as we came into both targets we were going left and right and left, then speeding up and slowing down.  Found a spot for a landing and started making an approach when one of those thermals got a hold of us.  We went down into the trees about skirt deep and brushed along for a while before I got us up and out.  Found another nice place for a landing and came in and slid the balloon to a nice standup landing.  For a moment.  We were only on the ground for a moment when a gust started dragging us and I had to dump the balloon.  Shortly we received a phone call from the ground crew.  They had no idea where we were.  I told them we were about a mile and a half south east of target 14-5.  We have preset a bunch of targets on our laptop mapping system so we could navigate around the area without actually knowing the area.  Unfortunately the GPS on the laptop in the chase vehicle had lost satellite connection so the ground crew had no idea of where they were either.  It is amazing how helpless you feel when your technology fails and you do not actually know how to read a map.  We had the landowner there to help so we thought it would be a good idea to put him on the phone to give directions.  It went kind of like this.  "If u con find Ole Mountan red and falla it dern to swarts herdwere den tak r frst rite to hansons chrch head drn dat rd to johnsons ver rund to yer left till you go over the creek bridg to halstons holler.  den just look fer flower wud drive and take ur first left onta apple tree.  Den ur just at da top a dat hill overyonder."  I took the phone back and told them again.  Figure out where you are and go about a mile and a half south east of 14-5.  Then you will be able to talk to us on the radio and we will get you here.

  I do not know how many balloons ended up flying but one of the gals after the flight was surprised that we hit both targets.  She said there were only 5 or 6 at the first target and a couple of those threw the wrong color markers.  I am interested to see the scores.  Even with bad drops we might have done well under the conditions. 

Next we did the balloon glow.  We were going to pass on it, but every one seemed up for is so why not.  By the time we got back to the field it was late and some of the balloons were putting down but we still stood up and glowed for a half hour.  Then it was off for refuel and something to eat for my fantastic crew.  I told them all what a wonderful job they had done and I could not have asked for anything more.  They were great and we did well under real tough conditions and flying a balloon twice the size of most of the others.  Big ATA boy for all of them.

See you in the morning.

Saturday PM Results.  

We scored a 4th and a 5th place on the two targets.  We have also found out that many pilots did not score on both targets and some did not score on either.  It appears we are currently in the top five overall at this point!

Sunday AM


We have a two part task this morning.  It will a fly in task with a Gordon Benett both located on the field.  We will have to drop two markers, one on the X and the other inside of one of two triangles located on the field.  One of the triangles will be a very large one but located further away from the X.  The other one will be smaller but located closer to the X. Drop a baggie in the small triangle will result in a better score but you run more risk of missing.  We launched several pi-balls and headed out to the west north west.  After finding a launch site we began our inflation.  The winds were real tricky.  As you climbed up you first went off at 350 degrees.  As you climb you would swing to 141 degrees at 1000 feet then go 090 at 2400 feet.  We had the field at 107 degrees so I lowered our altitude back down to around 2000 feet to maintain a heading just to the south of the field.  As I flew past the field I could see Kenney Shuemate down below on the track that I was intending to take.  I was shouting as I went over " Go GET EM KENNEY"  I was tickled to see him make a drop on the target and in the small triangle scoring area!  Now it was my turn.  I descended down into the 4 to 600 foot layers and headed toward the targets.  I was right on the money and was able to pass directly between the X and the small triangle.  I threw my green marker on the X first so that I could a feel for the distance and then tossed my red marker at the scoring area shooting for the middle.  I was absolutely HORRIFIED when the marker landed 3 inches outside the scoring area.  There was nothing else I could do.  I climbed back up into my only winds and proceeded to find a spot to land.  I was stunned.  I was right on top and made a poor poor throw.  Here again I wish I had dad in the basket to toss my markers for me.  My lovely passengers were heartbroken for me and were apologizing to me, but there was nothing they could have done.  It was certainly not any fault of theirs.  I screwed up, plain and simple.  We made a safe landing in a small neighborhood just to the west of the airport and that was a good decision as well.  Soon after we did the winds went totally variable.  Most of the other pilots in the sky never made it to the field and did not score on the targets at all.  Only three pilots hit one of the scoring areas and only 6 markers we dropped on the X.  So at least I scored on one target! Now it is all in the hands of the score keepers.  We knew there were a bunch of pilots who did not score at all the first night and we knew there were many pilots who did not score on either target on this flight but who scored on two? three? or did one pilot score on all four?  We just did not know.  We decided that we would pretty much drive ourselves crazy sitting there under our awning speculating so we decided to go down  to the midway and have some food, fun and a few laughs.  After wandering around for a few hours we walked back to our van and people started to come up and tell us congrats!  Turns out that very few pilots scored at all on targets and we were one of only a handful that scored on three and no one hit all four targets so we were the event champion and the BFA points champ as well.  Joe Zavda was nice enough to come over and congratulate me and I had a great time telling him how much his flying skills and adventures have been enjoyed my my parents.  He was very surprised to find out that Dad was my ground crew for years before becoming a pilot. 

The Scores were up!  We were all tickled to death!  Everything we had hoped to accomplish we did.  We are now qualified for the 2009 nationals!  We won the overall event! We were the BFA points champion for the event as well!  This whole event could not have turned out better.  I still wish I would have thrown that silly red marker in the triangle!  Now we could sit back and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and get ready for a fun flight tonight. 

Sunday PM Here we go again.  We have four passengers and they are planning a hound and hare.  Winds are supposed to be light and variable but we have some pretty good thermal stuff coming thru with gusty stuff now and then.  It is going to be another rock and roll launch and pick a big spot to land in at the end.  Once again we had four passengers to take on the flight and we were launching from the main field.  The crowd was great and we estimate there were around 8 to 10 thousand people there.  Space again was real tight so we went down into the field and found a spot we could squeeze into.  The hare balloon lifted off about 5pm on the money. Very shortly after everyone was in the inflation process.  We waited a little while since we had plenty of time before sunset and were hoping that the winds would calm down.  We did not care as much about the hound and hare since we had won the overall event and this last race was only for prize money and we did have paying passengers so did not need the prize money.  Our flight was wonderful and we happened to fly right back to a field near our hotel that we had looked at for launching on Friday morning.  I radioed the crew and told them to go to the field behind the Home Depot, the one we were in on Friday morning.  I will be landing there.  Sure enough they were there just as I got the balloon stopped.  Another evening lay down landing.  No one hurt, we had them all well briefed on how to hold on.  Lots of laughs and giggles getting out of the basket and great to have the crew there with me.  We packed up and then helped another balloon come in and land then did our champagne.  We returned to the launch field and said goodnight to our passengers.  Kim and Steve took care of refueling and we then headed out for our last dinner.  We were disappointed that there had not been any sort of awards ceremony.  We were expecting some sort of trophy or something so we took things into our own hands and presented ourselves with our own first place award.  Taken directly from the Balloon Meister's podium. 

We caught up with Kenny Shumate at the Appleby's and had dinner with his gang.  After our celebration dinner the crew and I went back to the hotel.  We were not quite finished with our party so all of us sat down to the table and started a game of Mexican Quarters.  Ask the crew how to play when you see them.  Kim bluffed about what he had a couple of times and made Steve drink, so then after that Steve was calling Kim's bluff every time.  Problem was, after that Kim was rolling great dice and never bluffed.  Steve became the casualty for the weekend. As we have come to know Kim as Capt Yard Dart we also know Steve as RALPH.... Lets put it this way Steve went to sleep in North Carolina and woke up in Florida!0

Here are some great shots from the flight and the event.

Over ALL Over all we had a great time.  Kim, Christina, Steve and Kelley were all fantastic.  I should have thrown better drops and their is no excuse for missing the scoring area on the last competition flight.  As it turned out I did not need it. 

Maggie was an angel!  She was fantastic the whole weekend.  We played Frisbee each day out on the field and she was a pleasure to have along. You should have seen us sitting under the TABT drinking a beer and throwing a Frisbee.  Maggie would bring it back and we never had to get up.  ATA GIRL MAGGIE.

My ground team worked together and were exposed to much tougher conditions than they ever see in Florida.  Even with the rough conditions for the evening flights they were great and we looked smooth and very professional. 

The pumpkin on the truck was a hit.  Lots of laughs and pictures taken of that.  Our TABT awning on the van was also a great hit and provided us a great place to sit and enjoy the field both Saturday and on Sunday. 

Thanks to all of you,  My crew, The Carolina Balloon Fest staff, Our great passengers during the event. We had a great time, we were safe, we didn't break anything or hurt anyone (except Steve, but that was self inflicted) and we even WON the event. 

We also achieved our ultimate goal of getting qualified for the United States National Hot Air Balloon Championships in 2009!  We will be in 24th place on the national pilot ranking list so we will defiantly get an invite.  We simply could not have done any better!   What a great time.  Guess we will have to come back!


As it turned out only one pilot scored on 3 out of four targets!  And I missed the 4th by 3 inches.  POO...  O..BTW. TABT= Thompson Aire Beer Tent.  LOL..