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updated: 7/1/2011 11:05 AM

Lisle's first balloon launch scrapped, but more to come

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  • A tethered RE/MAX balloon is stabilized by Bennett Schwontkowski Friday morning during the first attempted balloon launch at Lisle's Eyes to the Skies festival.

       A tethered RE/MAX balloon is stabilized by Bennett Schwontkowski Friday morning during the first attempted balloon launch at Lisle's Eyes to the Skies festival.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Under the guidance of pilot Bill Baker, a crew works to inflate the RE/MAX balloon. The Friday morning launch was canceled due to high winds.

       Under the guidance of pilot Bill Baker, a crew works to inflate the RE/MAX balloon. The Friday morning launch was canceled due to high winds.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • The tethered RE/MAX balloon and the Spirit of Curves balloon, piloted by Ron Frusher, are inflated side-by-side Friday morning in Lisle. The morning flights were canceled by high winds.

       The tethered RE/MAX balloon and the Spirit of Curves balloon, piloted by Ron Frusher, are inflated side-by-side Friday morning in Lisle. The morning flights were canceled by high winds.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
By Megan Bannister
mbannister@dailyherald.com

From 2,000 feet above the ground, the view of Chicago's suburbs is serene.

Or so one would assume.

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A centerpiece of Lisle's Eyes to the Skies festival this weekend, hot-air balloon launches are scheduled for 6 p.m. today and 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from Community Park near Route 53 and Short Street.

The flights, however, are weather dependent. So the festival's inaugural launch, slated for 6 a.m. today, was canceled thanks to winds clocked around 25 mph.

"I wouldn't want to be up in that wind," Lisle Mayor Joe Broda, a veteran balloon rider, said.

It's not exactly the same, but thrill-seekers can take a ride in tethered balloons from 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. each day of the festival that continues through Sunday. The rides cost $25 and also are weather dependent.

Even if you don't get a chance to go up in a balloon, here are five tidbits you can use to impress your friends at the Eyes celebration:

1. Few have cracked one of Broda's favorite riddles: How strong is the wind when you're riding in a hot-air balloon? Give up? There is none.

"You become the wind," Broda said, comparing a balloon in flight to a leaf or feather caught in a breeze.

As balloon riders float along, there is little sensation of movement because, as Broda notes, the balloon becomes one with the wind.

2. Envelopes, a fancy name for the fabric of the balloon, are not as light they appear. Watching as crews begin to inflate their balloons, it's easy to assume the fabric is lightweight and malleable.

Think again. Weighing an average of 200 pounds, the envelope would certainly cause injuries were it to fall on top of someone during inflation.

3. Trailer hitches are optional but helpful. During the inflation process this morning, RE/MAX crew members like Bennett Schwontkowski, president of Corporate Balloons, Ltd., helped to stabilize the balloon by hanging onto long ropes attached to the envelope. One such rope was even secured to the trailer hitch of a nearby truck to increase stability on the windy morning.

4. It's a bird, it's a plane ... in front of the balloon. Have no fear as you hover up to 2,000 feet above the ground, balloon pilots have it covered.

This morning the strong winds gusted toward O'Hare International Airport, with no place for pilots to land in between. But if an aerial encounter with an airplane was to occur, balloon crews always have the right of way (think lack of steering).

5. The science behind ballooning relies on a basic concept most elementary schoolers understand: heat rises. Using a liquid propane fuel burner, the same type of gas used in most grills, hot air rises in the cooler, denser air and causes the balloon to climb. When pilots want to return to Earth they simply let the balloon cool or vent some of the hot air.

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