By Mike Scott
“Audrey, why a hot air balloon?” I asked.
“Why not?” replied Audrey Schlatter of Kahoka, with her eyes sparkling and a big smile on her face.
Eric and Audrey Schlatter are the proud new owners of a 1996 Cameron Model V-77 hot air balloon. On Saturday, November 7, with the help of their instructor, his crew, and a number of friends, they test filled their new balloon at the Paul Rowe Airport in Kahoka.
“We went to the Macomb Balloon Rally in September,” Audrey said. “We talked to the pilots and had so much fun. That night I told Eric that I wanted one. He spent the night on the internet searching, and when I got up in the morning, he told me he had found one.”
The couple contacted the owner in Oregon, arranged to meet him a the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October. They purchased the balloon and brought it home to Kahoka.
The Schlatter’s can’t simply load up the balloon and go for a flight yet. FAA pilot balloon pilot requirements include both flight and ground instruction.
Ground instruction covers topics such as FAA regulations, preflight planning and inspections, calculating lift and airspace designations.
Flight training involves hands-on experience in ascents, emergency maneuvers and landings. They will have to make at least 10 flights prior to earning their balloon pilot’s licences. Most balloon pilots spend about a year in training.
They will also need a ground crew to help launch and recover the balloon.
As for Saturday’s test, wind conditions, and a couple technical problems kept the balloon on the ground, but Schlatters were happy, and ready to continue their training.