By Bob Shane
The 31st annual SRP Thunderbird Balloon and Air Classic, hosted by Glendale Airport, took flight October 28-30. The event took place last year in March, but was moved to October with the hope that the seasonal switch would mean better weather. This year’s balloon meisters, Frank and Molly Karlovec, said flying conditions were some of the best ever.
“We had five balloon events–a media day, two desert glows and two mass ascensions–and all of them came off flawlessly,” Frank Karlovec said.
A total of 57 balloons showed up. Among them was Happy Hour, Dean and Kim Rosenlofs’ brand new balloon. Their participation in the mass ascension on Sunday was only the third flight of their new aerostat. Dean Rosenlof was eager to demonstrate some of the new features he didn’t have in an old balloon. With turning vents, he could spin the balloon to face any direction, rather than having passengers change their position in the basket.
As we got low over the surface of a pond that punctuated a golf course, it looked as though he was setting up to do a splash and dash. He admitted that he thought about it for a second.
“If we were in the old balloon, I’d do it,” he said. A few blocks away, the balloon was gently landed in a school athletic field. The ride completed, and the balloon packed up, it was time for the obligatory champagne toast.
The Rosenlofs’ new balloon is the centerpiece of an aerial marketing services company called AeroINK, Inc. A banner can be appended to the envelope advertising almost anything, such as a company or product. It’s done in such a way that it looks like it’s part of the balloon. Once attached, the message is larger than a roadside billboard.
Thanks to the Rosenlofs’ new balloon, there’s one date neither of them will ever forget. Their wedding anniversary is represented on the balloon’s registration, which legally has to be in view when flying. That number is N867DK. Translated, it’s Aug. 6, 1997, Dean & Kim.
The SRP Thunderbird Balloon and Air Classic is the only event in the southwest that combines both hot air balloons and a full air show. This year’s line up included a replica 1903 Wright Flyer, an Air Force F-16 and everything in between.
A rare Japanese Zero engaged an F-6 Hellcat in simulated combat. A Russian MiG-17 flew against a North American F-86 Sabre jet. The Warbird Reunion returned again this year featuring aircraft from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Included were the B-17, P-51, AC-47 replica “Puff” gunship, TBM Avenger, PBY Catalina, AT-6 and T-28. The CJ-6 and L-39 Albatros performed flying demonstrations.
There were aerobatic performances by Tim Weber in his Geico Extra 300, Jon Melby in his Pitts S-1-11B and Michael Hunter in a Laser 230. Rides could be purchased in the CAF’s B-17 “Sentimental Journey.” Gold Coast Helicopters offered 10-minute rides in their Robinson 22 and 44 model helicopters.
One air show performance that always pleases the crowd is the Heritage Flight, which pairs a present-day jet fighter with a vintage WWII fighter, flying in close formation. Typically this is a formation of two aircraft. This year’s Heritage Flight was a real showstopper, with a P-51 flying in formation with an F-86 and an F-16.