Balloon Installment #6:
And this will be the last installment; hopefully I haven't bored you out of your wits! Now it was time to land, and it was almost going to be the Wallmart parking lot! Attention Wallmart Shoppers!
But Frank decided he didn't like the number of cars, took us back up, and looked for some place else without power lines.
He directed his ground crew to meet us in the parking lot of United Rentals.
A tarp gets spread out because the major cause of wear to balloons is as they're deflated and dragged along the ground, and get scraped up. The tarp helps protect them.
These guys were quite amused to have their lot taken over. Kids gathered at the fence to watch. I wonder how many calls they got this day for Balloon rentals?
Once we were safely on the ground, having a champaign breakfast, we told Frank that we'd prayed for his health and worried about sudden cardiac arrest (in him!)
He told us two amazing stories!
One of his first instructors had a daughter, who became a certified pilot as young as she possibly could, at the age of 18. She took up a group of Japanese businessmen, who didn't speak much English. They didn't hear/understand that they shouldn't all jump out at once at the end; it's a carefully orchestrated effort of first deflation and then exiting the basket. Four or 5 men jumped out and the balloon started to go back up. (Premature e. . . . Never mind!) The Japanese men shouted "Save the Little Girl!", grabbed her and pulled her out! Pulled out the only pilot in the balloon! And the balloon went up with 8 or 9 Japanese men who did not speak English. Fortunately, one of their cohorts on the ground was able to translate the instructions over the phone, and the pilot talked them down to a safe landing.
The second story actually did involve sudden cardiac death of the pilot. The passengers were talked down, and before the ground crew could reach them, they had very carefully, respectfully, lifted the pilot's body out of the basket. . . and the balloon and other passengers went right back up! Once again, the passengers found themselves becoming emergency pilots and landing the balloon safely.
If you ever go on a balloon ride, take cell phones with you!