Coyote Dry Lake Cluster Flight
(Not a formal part of XAP)
June 23, 2002, Coyote Dry Lake, Joshua Tree, California
Joel (The Dove) Tauber , art postgraduate student, made a little over
an hour solo flight "Powered by Bagpipe" above Coyote Dry Lake near
Joshua Tree, California.
He had seen a hot air balloon before, but had been denied flight
therein and had never even seen any gas balloon fly. With extensive
preflight briefing and hours of preparation he launched in essentially
calm inversion conditions. He operated a twenty some cell Pleiades
("Cluster") system with a modified hang glider suspension harness
using a little over a thousand dollars worth of commercially on site
delivered helium in individual cylinders.
The rubber Kaysam balloons were inflated over a period of two hours by
Joel and some fellow students using plastic irrigation system
connectors (following Don Piccard's design for the ill fated
Minnesota State Fair "Thrill Days" two person Pleiades flight of the
During the flight, which ranged from contour flying at a few inches
altitude under ground coaching to close to two hundred foot agl,
controlling altitude first by balloon releases and scoop ballast
drops, to some twenty minutes with then venting individual balloons
(through the screw cap fitting) and teaspoon quantity sand drops for
very fine control and final flight termination.
The vigorous playing of the bagpipe by the student pilot (and
obviously student bagpipe player, too.) with special funnels, attached
presumably in an artistic license "inflated and powered the balloons".
As Joel was operating under FAR Part 103, he was denied the honor of
getting a dry lake dirt and spoiled grape juice shampoo or other
'Traditional Honours", retiring instead to the "Crossroads Cafe" for a
pancake and fruit breakfast.
Although the evolution was part of a fantasy of flight student video
production with no previous intent to become a balloonatic, Joel is
hooked and is looking forward to more.
Inflation was started before dawn. One by one the balloons gathered, tied off to their ctlinders and cement blocks.
Joel, at right with helmet is suspended in a hang glider harness.
Not needing all the balloons that were inflated, he launches playing the bagpipe. The buckets hold sand ballast. Each one has its own scoop. He can pull a bucket up with one hand and scoop sand with the other. At the start, when the buckets were at about three feet altitude, I was able to adjust his buoyancy as I walked along beside him. The black disc is a coil of nylon webbing which he could drop as a handling line.
There is a miniature remote video camera on top of his helmet, but its range was limited. Most of the coverage was with regular video cameras and one 35 mm professional film camera.
Just drifting along a few feet above the table smooth dry lake bed.
Some balloons were tied closer to him so that he could access them for deflating.
Still playing the pipes - inflating balloons? - he approaches the time to land.
With the screw caps removed, the balloons deflate and can be easily squeezed empty and packed in plastic tubes. I think that this may have been the first Pleiades flight to successfully do this.
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