Aiming for the target: National balloonists complete four tasks Wednesday morning

Aaron Foelske fliess the hummingbird balloon, number 11, alongside Todd Isley during Wednesday's national competition flight. They flew over a field north of Highway 26 as the winds carried the balloons toward Mitchell from Scottsbluff.

SCOTTSBLUFF — As the morning sun crested the horizon over the valley Wednesday, national balloon pilots lifted off to complete the second set of tasks.

There were four tasks for the pilots to score points on as they headed in a northwest direction over Scottsbluff and northeast of Mitchell.

The first task was a fly-in where the pilots flew their balloons over Lacey Park on the east side of Scottsbluff and dropped their baggie onto the target. The task tested pilots’ accuracy as they were not allowed to throw nor wind up their baggie. They draped it over the side of the basket and dropped it with the hope the wind would carry it onto the X.

After completing the task, they continued flying toward Western Nebraska Community College. The public viewing area was at the grass fields east of the track. When they reached the target, pilots completed a calculated rate of approach task (CRAT). Pilots had to drop their baggies into a quadrant or onto the target X and surrounding circle based upon the time of arrival at the field. If they did not drop their marker into that area specified, it did not count. The locations changed every 15 minutes, including the X, around the X marker and quadrants A and B further out.

The third task took the pilots to the Scottsbluff Country Club. The judge declared goal was a gravity marker drop, but pilots had to be aware of powerlines and tree lines on both sides of the target.

The final task of the morning was the judge declared goal of an aerial virtual maximum distance double drop. Pilots had to drop a baggie within the areas specified northeast of Mitchell to have the longest straight line distance. The best result is the straight line distance on a 2-D basis.

Stay with the Star-Herald for more about Wednesday’s national competition.

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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