Finding the perfect hot air balloon landing spot is sometimes challenging. Many farms in the Seattle area are being sold off to residential developers, and other properties are filled with livestock and crops. Our favorite spots to land are on properties where we know the landowners, have manicured lawns, and have access for our chase crew to pick us up. The last two flights we've landed at private airstrips, and have been invited into their homes for post-flight coffee and snacks!
Since hot air balloons use the wind to steer, each flight path ends up being unique. Good hot air balloon pilots are judged on their ability to read the winds aloft, and fly their balloon to safe landing locations. Great hot air balloon pilots, land at pre-selected properties, and treat landowners with such respect and cheer, that they get invited in for freshly brewed coffee and breakfast.
On July 27th at 7:30 am, after an amazing hour and forty-five-minute flight over Auburn and Enumclaw, we landed our balloon on Cindy and Brian's property. Their house is part of a private aviation community that has a runway on the backside of their property. As we came in for a very soft landing on their perfectly manicured grass, Cindy opened her back door to take photos and greet us! She was so excited to have a hot air balloon land on her property. After letting her daughter check out our hot air balloon, we packed it in our trailer and got ready to head out. That's when Cindy invited us to have our champagne toast on her outdoor patio.
This morning, July 28th at 6 am, we launched from the middle of the Enumclaw Valley and made our way North to the Evergreen Sky Ranch Airport. The Evergreen Airstrip is surrounded by beautiful homes and large airplane hangers. Although we know many of the property owners, we chose to land at Rich and Carol's property. Our landing was perfect. Rich has a paved driveway that leads from his hanger to the runway. We ended up floating inches above the grass and landed the balloon basket in the center of his blacktop! Rich came out with a smile on his face and said, "When you are done packing this thing up, come over to the porch for some coffee." Rich is fantastic fixed wing pilot and opened up his hanger for us. What we found was a 1940 Stearman Army Biplane. How cool!
When I was in college, I worked as an intern selling educational books door to door. My sales manager always told me that the answer is behind the next door. "If you knock on every door with a good attitude and a smile, you'll make new friends every day." As a hot air balloon pilot, I use this same mantra. When I land somewhere new or am knocking on doors to find a new launch location, I greet landowners with a big smile, a great attitude, and make it my goal to make a new friend..