Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Walloon‘s new balloons
. . . .

Walloon‘s new balloons

Kristi Kates - August 9th, 2010
Walloon‘s New Balloons: Aeronaut Lesley Pritchard offersan uplifting new business
By Kristi Kates
“I became involved with ballooning in 1968 when my father, Frank,
formed a balloon club in the Flint area with nine other men,” aeronaut
Lesley Pritchard explains, “it was a real quirk, as none of them had
ever even seen a balloon - yet they each contributed $500 and bought
one. Only my father and one other man learned to fly, so I had many
opportunities and I never passed them up.”
Pritchard, who was an artist before she became an aeronaut, says that
the “abstract notion” of ballooning is part of what captivated her -
“that a colorful bag of fabric could become a vehicle to carry me
aloft,” she says. Now a full-time ballonist, Pritchard most recently
launched Walloon Balloon Adventures in Walloon Lake so that she can
offer the ballooning experience to Northern Michigan residents. And
her flight path to starting that business was a long and interesting
one.

AIR ACHIEVEMENTS
“In 1971, I went to work building balloons with some very creative
friends who had decided to begin manufacturing balloons,” Pritchard
remembers, “by 1978, I had quit my job teaching special education in
Gaylord, and moved to Dallas, Texas to pursue a career in ballooning.”
Pritchard, who now has over 40 years’ experience flying balloons,
says that she finds herself “fortunate to have had a pretty exciting
career.” Her aforementioned father was the first National Hot Air
Balloon Champion in 1970; Pritchard herself competed at the national
level for many years. In 1988, she was the first woman to fly a hot
air balloon over the Continental Divide; and she also earned the right
to represent the U.S. in three international Coupe de Gordon Bennett
Gas Balloon Races. “I was most thrilled about that - it’s a
prestigious event which began in 1906 and is the oldest aviation
competition in the world,” she explains.
Other notable flights of Pritchard’s include one from Albuquerque into
the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, and from Denver, Colorado to the
Arctic Circle beneath the Northern Lights.
But all of these achievements didn’t just float Pritchard’s way - she
most definitely had to work at them.
“Ballooning is a form of aviation called lighter-than-air, or LTA,
which is regulated just like every other form by the Federal Aviation
Administration,” Pritchard explains, “the FAA controls all aspects of
the operation including pilot certification and aircraft
airworthiness. To earn a pilot certificate, you must fullfill the
requirements for aeronautical experience including flight instruction
and solo hours, complete ground school study with emphasis on Federal
Aviation Regulations and meteorology, pass a written exam and a flight
exam.”
“I am rated as a Commercial Free Balloon Pilot and Instructor without
limitation,” she continues, “which means I am also licensed to fly gas
balloons, which are a bit different than hot air balloons.”

HEAT OR GAS?
Pritchard, who owns a 105,000 cubic foot hot air balloon and a 30,000
cubic foot gas balloon, says that while both can lift about 2,000
pounds gross weight, their respective operating processes are somewhat
unique.
“The hot air balloon uses a propane burner to heat the air inside the
balloon, and flight duration is limited to onboard fuel supply, which
is typically 45 gallons of propane for a balloon of this size,” she
explains, “the hot air balloon derives its lift from the difference
between ambient (outside) air and the temperature at the top of the
balloon, which could reach as high as 250 degrees on a typical flight.
Duration therefore depends on air temperature and the total weight of
passengers and pilot. Availability of landing sites is also a factor
here in Northern Michigan, so sometimes we choose to land even when
there is onboard fuel remaining.”
The gas balloon, on the other hand, uses helium for lift in the U.S.
(European gas balloons use hydrogen, which Pritchard points out is
cheaper), and sandbags or water for ballast - and is a quieter
experience, too.
“Once the gas balloon is filled completely and weighed down by
occupants and gear, you can spill a scoop of sand and it will silently
lift off the ground,” Pritchard says, “dump a whole bag, and the
balloon might rise swiftly to 1,000 feet before it levels off again.
The most incredible difference between hot air and gas is that once
you lift off in a gas balloon, you can fly for several days and nights
without landing. It is the most extraordinarily pure way to fly, and
sort of like camping in a box in the sky. Of course, meteorology and
flight planning becomes the biggest issue in this type of flying,
since you are completely at the mercy of the weather.”

BALLOON ROOTS
Although Pritchard took her ballooning around the country for years -
including ballooning businesses in the Dallas-Forth Worth area and in
Colorado’s Vail Valley - it was Northern Michigan’s weather and
beauty, among other factors, that continued to draw her back.
“Northern Michigan has always been home, and I always brought a
balloon with me when I came home to visit,” Pritchard says, “when I
returned again after Y2K, I continued to fly quietly - even though
it’s pretty hard to keep a low profile! This summer, I went back to my
roots, which are on the shores of Walloon Lake, and decided to launch
a seasonal balloon business called Walloon Balloon Adventures.”
Walloon Balloon Adventures now offers Champagne Flights at sunrise and
sunset from May through October; Pritchard says that although you can
fly year-round, she’s choosing to pack the balloons away until spring
after the fall colors have waned. The flights last around an hour,
with the entire experience lasting three to four hours, from inflating
the balloon to landing, and Pritchard usually carries up to four
passengers per flight (plus the pilot.)

THE EXPERIENCE
“Generally, the first part of the flight takes place at treetop level,
following the contour of the earth so closely that you can reach out
and pick leaves,” Pritchard says. “Most people are amazed as we drift
along so silently, with only intermittent blasts from the burner.
When I increase the temperature inside the balloon by using the
burner, the balloon ascends to much greater height - typically two or
three thousand feet - where you can see really great distances and the
amazingly beautiful scenery this area affords.”
Miles and miles of Lake Michigan and the Northern Michigan countryside
are viewable from the balloon; some flights carry passengers over
farmlands or state forests where wildlife are visible. A factor that’s
perhaps often not thought about is that there’s zero windchill in a
balloon.
“It’s not any colder in the balloon than on the ground, because you’re
travelling with the wind,” Pritchard explains, “therefore you also
float along with no sense of movement or turbulance at all. Liftoff is
very gentle, and you barely notice that the earth seems to be slipping
away as the balloon rises.  Landings are typically smooth as well - an
ideal landing would bring the balloon to rest with only the slightest
bump as the basket touches back down on terra firma.”
Pritchard says that some individuals bring a camera, while others just
absorb the experience; overall, she thinks of ballooning as a very
“personal thing.”
“I hope people enjoy the entire experience, from the inflation of the
colorful envelope to the pack-up in some fallow field after a
memorable flight,” she says, “each flight ends with a champagne
celebration, a tradition which dates back to the first flight in 1783.
While it’s true that I do like that part also, my favorite part of
this entire journey is meeting new people and sharing this most unique
adventure with them.”

Walloon Balloon Adventures may be contacted at 231-459-5699 or via
email at walloonballoon@yahoo.com. A website (www.walloonballoon.com)
is currently under construction. Hot air balloon flights are offered
at $300 per person; advance reservations are required, and gift
certificates are available. Individuals interested in becoming a chase
crew member for the balloons are also invited to call for more
information.

 
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