Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 16, 2012

Up in the air

Despite being postponed, first for rain and then for high winds, hot air balloon rides went up and away, much to students’ delight.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, May 12, rides were delayed a day when it rained throughout the afternoon. There was still a large turnout to sign up for rides on Sunday, but times were pushed back more than an hour when high winds made it dangerous for the balloon to go up.

There was some disappointment among the students about how low the balloon stayed.

“I thought we were going to go on a journey through the skies of tomorrow,” post-baccalaureate Nicole McCabe ’11 said, “and instead we were tethered to a bunch of trucks.”

Senior Stephanie Lashway disagreed.

“It was awesome,” she said. “It was really cool to go up high.” Asked if the experience was scary, she said that it was not.

The Union Board members said it was necessary to keep the balloon low due to potentially dangerous winds.

Union Board member senior Jessica Weller said she was in charge of orchestrating the event, and it was actually quite simple to find and contact a pilot to come out and do flights. The idea came out of a brainstorming session, as do most Union Board events.

Pilot Maury Petrehn said he has been around hot air balloons for more than 40 years.

“My dad started ballooning back in the 70s,” he said. “There’s eight pilots in my family, making us the biggest family of balloon pilots in the world.”

According to Petrehn, becoming a hot air balloon pilot takes a lot of training, similar to the training for a fixed-wing aircraft but with more instruction in meteorology. The price of hot air balloons ranges from a few thousand dollars used to several hundred thousand dollars for the most expensive models.

Petrehn has flown in Austria, Japan and all around the United States.

“Ballooning is my life,” he said. “This is my life.”

Valerie James

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