The big blueshape on the opposite page—looking rather like a giant mushroom in a hairnet—isa balloon being inflated on the outskirts of Philadelphia for a day's sport(following pages). This balloon is operated by the two dozen members of theBalloon Club of America, the only active society of its kind in the U.S.Ballooning is such an old and simple sport, it would seem the thrill of itmight soon wear off, but the club members have found plenty of new excitementriding through the eastern skies. They have raced against another balloon(another they own, for want of a better rival). They have played hares andhounds with sports car drivers, made water landings, and one crew was forced toparachute 4,200 feet when the balloon collapsed (SI, Nov. 8). To judge by thehistory of ballooning, these 20th century balloonists will never run out ofexcitement. For a look into some unusual ballooning adventures of the past,turn to page 21.
Preparing for anascent, members of the Balloon Club of America spend four hours filling their80,000-cubic-foot balloon with cooking gas. As the balloon rises, the crew mustcontinually reset sandbags to straighten the net and hold it down.
Safely airborne,Balloonist Francis Shields ties the red rip panel cord well away from the whitevalve cord. The rip cord is used only to release the gas suddenly afterlanding.
At 4,000 feet theballoon drifts across eastern Pennsylvania. Using cooking gas, which affordsless than half the lift of helium but is much cheaper, a crew of four or fivecan travel all day for $100.
Logging theirflight, Pilot Tony Fairbanks (left) and Francis Shields find that, since theyascended from Valley Forge, Pa., an hour ago, the balloon has been riding asteady 12-mph wind.
A familiarlandmark, the Delaware River south of Trenton, indicates a northeasterly courseacross New Jersey. Crew members know they probably must land within 50 miles toavoid the ocean.
Rare illusion ofa second, ghostly balloon in a halo of light sometimes startles noviceballoonists. Called a "glory," and seen more often today fromairplanes, the illusion is caused by refraction of light as the shadow passesover thin, misty clouds.
ROBERT HALMI AND CURT GUNTHER