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Inspiration

Grainger Everyday Heroes: Hot Air Balloon Pilot

6/22/20
Grainger Editorial Staff

Since 1973, the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival has been catering to hot air balloon enthusiasts and artists alike. Meet Seth Goodman, a real estate broker by day and hot air balloon pilot by night. Seth had his first hot air balloon ride for his 13th birthday, and he's been hooked ever since.

My name is Seth Goodman. We're here in Lincoln, Illinois at the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival, and I am a hot air balloon pilot here. My day job is real estate, I am a real estate broker here in Lincoln. I do hot air ballooning for pleasure. I had my first ride for my 13th birthday. My parents gave [the hot air ballon ride] to me as a gift, and ever since then I've been hooked on it.

[When I started hot air ballooning], I was constantly looking at the gauges. The commercial pilot that trained me said, "Seth, eventually you're going to learn [not to look at the gauges], you're just going to feel it." You have to have confidence in yourself and know what you're doing, rather than continuously look at those gauges. In the balloon we have a temperature gauge which will [give the temperature] at the very top of the balloon. Generally, you don't want to exceed 250 [degrees] up there, and you definitely do not want to go over 275 [degrees]. That is a dangerous temperature level. [There is a gauge in the basket that] tells us the altitude, so we know how high up we are. We also know our speed based on the GPS, as well as our heading in the air. [There are] a lot of different things you can look at. Each propane tank has a level [gauge] so we can tell how much propane we have left. In terms of [the amount of] propane [needed], it depends on how many people you have flying, how far you plan to fly and the temperature outside. It's a little bit warmer tonight so we will go through more propane than a flight on a cooler day.

There are challenges that you could face out here with 33 balloons. You have to know how to control your balloon, as well as how to maneuver it around 32 other balloons. Strategically, during each of our morning and evening flights, we have targets that are set. Our objective is to hit the target. [In order to] hit the target, you have to know how to maneuver to different altitudes so that you can get the right heading at the right speed you want.

I could probably set up [this ballon], fly it, take it down by myself and two others at a minimum. I like to have at least four or five others [to help me]. The more help [I have] the better, the quicker you can set up and the quicker you can take it down. There is a lot of weight involved here in this balloon, especially when the tanks are full. You want to make sure that you have the manpower and are prepared to get the balloon set up. Especially during a festival like this, you want to be able to set it up in a timely manner.

I would say in hot air ballooning that anything could happen. You have to be careful in all aspects of it, from setup to flight to takedown. There are a million and one things you have to keep an eye out for, and that's why I like to have crew that know what they're doing. I have a radio which will communicate directly to the chase vehicle. They will get out ahead of me, and tell me what landing sites are up ahead and which way we're going, I communicate to them my heading and my speed, so we can work together and [determine] where we may go. When we come in to land, I say, "this is where we're coming," the [people in the chase vehicle] will get in front of us, catch the basket, keep us down, and we're usually good to go. They chase me in this truck right here, and they're usually right where we are when we come in. They'll catch us, we'll take the balloon down [together], load it up and head back to wherever we took off from.

I think people are fascinated by it, especially little kids. [Look at] the balloon that I have here, it's lime-green, blue, white and orange, so at nighttime the white and the lime-green really glow nicely. You just hear people oohing and aahing the whole time. We do a whole glow [at night], which is when everybody will glow. Then we do a flicker and go down the line so one will flicker, then the next one, and so forth, all the way down. It grabs the attention of everybody around here, and it's just a neat event that everybody looks forward to each year. When you fly in a hot air balloon, it's so serene and peaceful. It's something that very few get to experience. It's a very neat feeling.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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