Hot air balloons top bucket lists

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By ALAN OLSON

For The Times Leader

COLUMBUS — The oldest form of flight by mankind still remains popular, as people continue making plans to take hot air balloon rides as a popular summertime adventure,

Numerous agencies exist within driving distance to take part in the most colorful form of air transport, with Columbus and Cleveland offering local opportunities to take to the skies. Tom Furlong, a pilot with the Blacklick-based Balloon Master Inc., says handfuls of people come out each year to do what many say they’ve always wanted to do at least once in their life.

“The large majority of it seems to be on peoples’ bucket lists,” Furlong said. “From there, you’ve also got people who are into aviation and trying everything they can fly in.”

Tallmadge-based Heaven Bound Ascensions serves the northeast Ohio area for ballooning. Denny Welser, a pilot with 35 years of experience, says that many people go up for the first time just to say they did, but they ultimately enjoy it so much they come back for more.

“It’s always on someone’s bucket list, and there’s a lot of times where they like it so much they come back to try it again,” Welser said.

In addition to the enthusiasts, Furlong said the rides are also highly popular among people wanting a particularly memorable landscape for proposals.

At the mercy of the unpredictable Ohio climate, balloon launches are sporadic, but a good year may see more than 100 launches. However many are had, Furlong said the scenery makes for a great view.

“We’re so weather-dependent, we could fly 100 times if we had great weather, or 50 times if we had bad weather,” Furlong said. “We fly the south corner of Columbus, where we can point out downtown, Buckeye Lake, Hocking Hills. … There’s a lot of farm country, a little bit of city, and where we fly, there’s a little bit of everything.”

Around Tallmadge, balloonists can take in the scenery of northeast Ohio. Heaven Bound Ascensions accommodates rides for up to six people.

“It’s pretty — we don’t actually fly near Cleveland, as we’re out in the countryside. Lots of lakes, streams, woods. It’s pretty hard to find,” Welser said.

Closer to home, Balloons Over Morgantown is an annual event where dozens of balloonists flocked to Morgantown Airport. Past events have seen more than 40 balloons launch from the site, joined on the ground by a carnival, though the date for the 2017 event has not yet been set.

While ballooning isn’t particularly rigorous, Welser did advise people to ask their doctor before deciding on the trip, as back problems or other complications, such as having difficulty standing for an hour, as well as pregnancy, may make the ride a troublesome one.

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