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Z Balloon Adventures1998 BFA Long Jump Winner, Dan Campbell

Dan Campbell's BFA Long Jump Flight 1/10/1998

If at first you don't succeed, quit, well for a few years at least! I last tried to do a BFA Long Jump in 1994 with a distance of 167.3 miles. I thought that was to be my personal best. After all, my previous best was in 1992 with a distance of 97.3 miles. Unheard of, then! People were amazed at the distance then. This time I am the one that was amazed that we flew 501.1 Kilometers . I somewhat disappointed when comparing it to Bruce Comstock's record distance of 645 Miles. But hey, I'll take it!

The BFA Long Jump actually began when I was having a new National 105,000 being built. I retained the black top third to retain the heat better as well as the black lower third and the use of a "Chute" instead of a skirt. I also used Silicone Coated Ripstop Nylon fabric for better fabric life and to make the balloon less porous. So even a year ago, I was in the planning stages.

The next thing I needed was a sponsor, United Parcel Service called and wanted on board! I didn't contact them, they called me!! Hey, this whole ballooning thing is getting easier! Not really, but I thought so for the minute!

I then needed some people that were into weather, knew weather, and had flown in weather, and knew what I wanted and when I wanted it. Who to contact, hmmm. How about the guy that beat everyone else? So I first contacted Bruce Comstock and he was very informative and helpful and more than willing to help.

I also contacted Jim Pearson, another balloon pilot, and he watched the weather from his vantage point. I still don't know where Jim comes up with some of the weather information he finds! Maybe I don't want to know!

The amazing thing was that the great weather information Bruce and Jim was almost identical. giving me great weather information. It almost was identical! That gave me some relief that they both agreed on the same thing!

After conferring with National Ballooning, LTD and Phil Gray, we discussed the danger of taking off in light winds, and landing mid day with low or no fuel, high winds, and thermal activity. It was decided to inflate at 10AM and fly until sunset was the safest option available to us. It would allow us to land in 15 to 20MPH winds and with nearly empty tanks yet still be in a controlled situation. I would be traveling at higher altitudes and should be able to stay above the thermals. I now had all the information I needed and the best ground support, the best weather information and the best balloon equipment. All I had to do now was to get the weather to cooperate.

On January 7th 1998 we started watching the weather closer than usual. We saw what we were waiting for! Now if it would just keeps developing! It does! Friday January, 9th we agree that the day to fly is Saturday the 10th, with a backup day of Sunday. Forecast is for light winds on the surface and 80 MPH at 9,000 feet AGL.

Friday PM, I shrink wrap my basket with "Pallet Wrap" and store the burners indoors. Finally getting to sleep at 3AM on Saturday AM. I was back up at 6:30 AM watching the weather, making the calls and triple checking everything. Everything is a "Go"! Unbelievable!

The Crew assembles at my place at 8:30AM. We are aiming for a 10 AM launch. The basket is put together slowly and deliberately. No mistakes. Mistakes could be very costly and dangerous.

At 9 AM we initiate nitrogen pressurization and top the pressure to 180 lbs. Checking all tanks and hoses again for leaks. All is well! We load up the support team and take 2 vehicles to the launch site!

Our launch site was in Waterworks Park in Des Moines, down in a hole, sheltered by trees and a mile before anything but more trees. A perfect place for a balloon launch. Temperature is 5 degrees F. above zero and the winds are 5 to 7mph. Perfect!!

At 10:10 AM we abort the first inflation. A thermal hits the UPS Balloon before any heat is added to the envelope. Regroup and reinflate! At 10:20 AM we stand up the UPS Balloon and disconnect our inflator tank and at 10:25 AM we lift off. I had been listening to ATIS and knew it was getting windier by the moment. That and I knew just by looking around at the trees it was getting worse by the minute. ATIS was reporting winds 15 gusting to 22mph. A little more than I wanted, but I have done 15mph inflation's before. It was the gusts that bothered me!

After getting an all clear from my crew chief, Mark Clifford, I pulled the Quick Release and was airborne! I initiated a planned 500 feet per minute ascent rate to 5,000 feet AGL. I immediately contacted the Des Moines tower to advise them of my heading and speed. I was amazed at 800 feet AGL I was traveling at 32 mph. At 2,000 feet I again checked my speed and I was really amazed at my speed, 54MPH!! Wow! This is great! Then it dawns on me, I have never landed a 105 by myself before. I have always had at least 4 people flying with me. Now I would have to land a nearly empty balloon by myself in a strange area. I love a challenge. But with over 1100 flights to my credit, I felt I could handle any situation that could arise. I had taken every precaution and planned every move. Nothing was to chance. I informed the support team that the flight was a "Go" and all was well and according to plan.

At 50 minutes into the flight at 8,000 feet AGL and 62 MPH I experienced a cold feeling on my hand. I looked at my glove. Propane! So I shut down that burner and continued on my other burner. At this point Bill Murtorff's voice popped into my head and said "The nice thing about an O-Ring leak is that if it catches on fire, it usually warms the O-Ring up and stops the leak!". Thanks Bill! I was to have 3 more O-Ring leaks, they were not failures. Leaks is a better word for them. We had lubed them and kept them warm the night before, yet in adverse conditions, I guarantee you will have problems. I was flying in -10 degree F. weather.

The flight continues on to 10,900 feet AGL and maintained on track. At 11:45 AM I was moving at 73.8 MPH. Not bad! A personal best! I love it! At that point I remembered I was hungry and it was time to eat the snacks that my fiancé Karen had packed. This produced the frozen Diet Coke and the frozen Orange Juice and the frozen brownies that was to be my nutrition. I tried drinking a Diet Coke, but it was to frozen. And besides, I didn't really want the metal can froze to my lip for the rest of the flight. I guess food is out for now.

The rest of the trip was pretty standard except when I contacted the Moline Tower in Illinois and advised them I was in their area. They granted clearance. Then a minute later they came back with "UPS Balloon, do you know a guy named Jim Pearson?" I replied that I did. They then said "He just called right before you contacted the tower wanting to know if I had been through yet!" Not bad Jim! He didn't even know I was late on my takeoff and yet he was on top of my position! I am impressed!

At 7,700 feet AGL was where I obtained my maximum speed of 79.8 MPH. I reached a maximum of 11,500 feet AGL. All personal bests.

At a little past 3 PM at 8,600 feet AGL I advised my ground support that I was descending to 5,000 feet AGL to stabilize and check and stow everything for my final descent. I determined from the local ATIS that surface winds were 15 MPH gusting to 20 MPH. Time to put on the full face crash helmet! I began a 400 foot per minute descent. I would add a 2 second burn to keep the balloon rounded out and slow the descent. It would actually stop my descent and place me into a 100 foot per minute climb! This was going to take forever at this rate. And I was getting concerned with wind shears.

I actually picked my landing spot from 20 miles away. It was the only green spot I could see and it was REAL LONG!!! It took me 30 minutes to descend down to 2000 feet AGL and a speed of 40 MPH. The last 2000 feet was going to be the fun part! I was still stair stepping down slowly and surely until I arrived at 500 feet AGL where I noticed a planned left hand turn. It also slowed me down to 23 mph. Still on approach for my intended wheat field. I dropped slowly down and cleared the powerlines by 100 feet. At this point the neighboring town was on the chase!! I descended down to 20 feet AGL. I shut down the remaining burner and pilot light and pulled the top. I looked at my speed, 17MPH. Not bad. Better than I thought it was going to be!

The landing actually was smooth. I set it down gently yet firmly. I skidded in the upright position while the balloon started to go downwind. At that point I hit a frozen chunk of earth and was flipped up in the air about 10 feet and was now dragging on the narrow side of my basket. That was only the third time I have ever landed on the narrow side. A personal best? After only 150 feet from the first touchdown the UPS Balloon was stopped and everything was great and all in one piece! No damages and a personal best! My Eagle Accunav GPS was reading 317.6 miles!

I crawled from the basket with a headache from not eating and was very cold all of a sudden. I had been to busy to notice earlier. As I walked to the highway I must have had 30 cars on the side of the road. As some folks were walking out to me, I started to cramp up from being cold and not moving a lot and then pulling a 70 LB parachute top out and keeping it pulled out. I was walking but very slowly. The farmer across the street had me come into their house to warm up and to contact the recovery team. The first thing I did was ask where I was at. They looked at me kind of funny. I said I knew I was on the ground, but am I in Indiana? Sadly I was 6 miles short. In my hurry to land I had put the maps up and was guessing. Now I wished I would have stayed up a few minutes longer. But my lack of fuel would not allow it. After 15 minutes inside the farmer's house, I was back in great shape. I went back over to pack up and secure the UPS Balloon and equipment. A couple of Sheriff's cars pulled in to check on me. They had reports of a balloon "crash" and thought I may have been one that was trying to fly around the world. I told them I wasn't and that all was well and they left after I gave them some Balloon Trading Cards.

About 45 minutes from touchdown I once again had radio contact with my recovery team consisting of chase driver Rick Nelson and my fiancé Karen Palmer handling logistics. I shot an Aerial Flare up 400 feet to help them find me. They saw it and were there in 5 minutes. We slowly packed a cold balloon into a bag that seemed two sizes to small. Actually at that point all I could think of was food!

We found a restaurant in the closest town and I ordered Prime Rib with everything! I actually was stealing food from Rick's plate as well as Karen's! My headache quickly left and I was stuffed and happy once again. All is good, except we now have a 6 1/2 hour drive ahead of us to get back home. That is when it finally dawned on me the distance that the UPS Balloon and I flew. We arrived home at 2:30 AM. What a day and what a flight. The support team was elated and I was also. (Although I was disappointed that I did not land in Indiana!)

Once again I would like to thank a few people, Bruce Comstock, Jim Pearson, Rick Nelson, Karen Palmer-(Campbell now!), Ron Dahleen, Mark Clifford, Ferrellgas and UPS and National Ballooning, LTD. It takes more than a pilot! I couldn't have done it safely without you!

A BFA Long Jump is something that should be taken very seriously. Extra care and precaution should be used at all times. Make a check list and follow it! Make a list of the things you might need and start compiling them. It will take a lot more time because a lot of items are non-stock ballooning items. If anyone needs a copy of my list feel free to mail me or e-mail me at balloon@dwx.com and I will be happy to send you a copy! It is to large to post here!

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