Balloons are not like other types of FAA certified aircraft, in that we rarely launch from and land at established airports. Although there is some steering available, by the grace of the winds at different altitudes, the steering is limited and somewhat fickle in its reliability.
The result is plan as we might, and as skilled as the best pilots are, we rarely can take off and plan to land with a particular field in mind. Add to this passenger requests to fly over a pond to get a reflection photo or pick leaves, or the need to fly higher over cattle and navigation can be a "best effort" endeavor.
Although we endeavor to communicate our intentions to our crew, and get permission prior to landing, frequently we are forced to land first and ask permission later. 95% of the time we are welcomed with open arms. We, by our visit, have been a joyous surprise. Frequently neighbors swing by to join in the fun. Even the most diligent yard workers find time stop to witness the spectacle.
When we can't identify a land owner, as is frequently the case in leased fields we do everything in our power to Leave No Trace.
In the 5% of the time that the landowner shows concern, it almost always is the result of a bad experience with property use without permission, or their fear that we may injure ourselves, or do damage to their property. Be assured we hear and understand your concerns. We will not drive out in your field unless we have permission to do so. We have an electric recovery cart that had large soft tires that are similar to ATV tires. They do not tear up turf and because of the weight distribution will not rut the soil. Check out the adjacent video of our equipment arrival. Additionally we carry liability insurance including first aid coverage. If someone twists their ankle in a wood chuck hole, they can get assistance at our expense. Although this has never happened, it is a point of concern with more than a few landowners.
We know the difference between hay, wheat, alfalfa, and clover, we understand that a fresh cut hay field will not show any sign of our visit by the next day, where a more mature crop may well have diminished yield, if we were to land there. Be assured we would only land in a perishable crop as a last resort and likely because unexpected winds were encountered. if damage is done by us, we will make it right. In flying since 1988 this has not happened but the local cooperative extension has extended the offer to apprise crop damage should it ever occur.
We rarely land in an active pasture, and we are aware that balloon baskets can be carriers of potentially dangerous pathogens. We therefore wash down the basket and cart when we have landed in a pasture. All of this is to say we understand, respect and appreciate the welcome of every land owner.
We come baring a gift of Welch's sparkling grape juice. Land owners who would allow us to have our post flight celebratory toast on their property are invited to join in. As owners of Sky Sail Balloons and Crown Hill Stone we understand the survival pressures of running a weather dependent, seasonal private enterprise, in New York.
We also are aware of the community from which we come. We donate several rides or partial rides to non-profit service groups and support others with cash donations. Because we are such a highly visible community member, I suspect our near daily request for donated services may even surpass what is asked of the farmers in the community. We are a supporter of 4H, Rotary, and several others.
We have gotten several notes over the years thanking us for our respectful professional treatment, and the infectious joy we endeavor to bring on every flight. If you are a local land owner with a concern please feel free to contact us at any time. If it were not for friendly land owners we would not be able to share our unique prospective of the glorious world with which we are so richly blessed.