Southern Balloon Journeys offer the trip of a lifetime
By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist
It was predawn at the Bessemer County Airport when the driver of the truck and trailer entered the gate code and proceeded to the field adjacent to the runway.
Out of the trailer came the hot air balloon ‘Ado’ and its various components — the basket or gondola, a substantial fan, the large red drawstring pack containing Ado’s ‘envelope,’ support poles and a double burner. The burner is the balloon’s engine, so to speak.
While patiently explaining the safety measures, William Davis handed Barbara and Gary Hyche each a pair of heavy work gloves and guided them through helping his assistants unfurl the colorful snaking fabric in preparation for inflation.
“People may not realize that we don’t fly hundreds of miles — we are at the mercy of the winds. The ride itself is about an hour and we usually cover about five miles,” said Davis.
Once up, the pilot has to get a feel for the winds and is in contact with the chase vehicle throughout, as the exact landing spot is not known.
At the bottom opening of the balloon is a second piece of fabric with an attached rope that is used to control the speed of the descent.
The final set down this day turned out to be on the front lawn of Pelham’s Urgent Care Center.
This balloon ride was Justin Hyche’s Father’s Day/birthday present for Gary Hyche — marking an item off Gary’s Bucket List.
Barbara Hyche researched online and “was drawn to Southern Balloon Journeys by their attractive website. When I contacted them, I found out that the owner and pilot, William Davis, is my neighbor.”
At the journey’s end, Davis presented each with an Ado balloon lapel pin and the crew all drank a toast to their journey.
“It was great fun,” both Barbara and Gary agreed. “It gives you a whole new perspective of the landscape. And except for the occasional whooshes from the gas burner, it is very quiet and peaceful. It’s just you and nature.”
Southern Balloon Journeys is available for Hot Air Rides and Tether Rides for events.
Davis, FAA certified pilot/instructor, also teaches flight instruction.
Their website is Fltsbj.com
Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at email@example.com.