One person balloons are small, lightweight systems that pilots love to fly. At least nine manufacturers have designed and made these little sport models over the years. The rub has been that nobody buys them, or at least not enough to make them financially viable.
These little balloons date back to Ed Yost's first flight in 1960. Tracy Barnes flew a homebuilt at the first St. Paul Winter Carnival balloon race in 1962. Semco certified a chair balloon in 1967. The Balloon Works had a 42,000 cubic foot balloon.
By 1977, Tarp Head, then at Adams Balloons, wanted a small balloon to fly in the Kool Pro Tour. He and Mike Adams designed the Little Devil model, a 39,000 cubic foot balloon. The basket for this model was designed by positioning a ten gallon fuel cylinder on the floor of the shop having person squat behind the tank and then placing a second tank behind the person. An oval was drawn and a basket born.
In 1979 Per Lindstrand and others developed the Cloudhopper, a hang balloon where the pilot was strapped to the tank.
In 1982 Forey Walters at Avian Balloons built a small chair balloon for 13 year old Stephanie Shinn who used the balloon to set world records. As an ultralight balloon, Shinn needed only a Federation Aeronautique Internationale sporting license issued by the National Aeronautic Association for the records to be recognized. This generated a lot of controversy.
It wasn't the first time that small balloons were used under somewhat controversial circumstances to set records. Brian Boland, who has probably built more small balloons than anyone else, built one for his wife who set altitude records in a high mountain pass in Colorado. In those days only the height above sea level was important.
Eventually Coy Foster would use the small balloon to rewrite the record books in the mid-80s.
Last year at the first Experimental Balloon meet in Vermont many of the homebuilders gathered to show off their small, fun balloons. Bill Arras in Oregon is now experimenting with small balloons with an eye toward setting records. The big balloons are certainly not going away, but expect to see more people "playing" with small balloons in the future.
From homebuilts to type certified balloons, the small one person balloon has been around since the beginning of modern day ballooning. Our Special Report examining these fun balloons begins on page 20.
When do you want to let your repair station know that you will be needing their services? Earlier this year several pilots were gathered at a repair station for tailgating after a lovely morning flight. The phone rang and the station owner went to answer the call.
When she came back we learned that a pilot had torn his balloon on a tree. He was still 500 feet in the air. He had called on his cellular phone to see if the repair station had the right fabric to do the repair. As soon as he landed and packed up he would be making the eight hour drive to the repair station. Wait for the repair to be done and drive back for a flight the next morning.