I dreamed about the first flight in this balloon since before I started building it. Finally the day came. The paperwork was done. The winds were very light, allowing me to fly "low and slow" as Don Piccard recommended.
So I called around to find crew. No luck. The National Balloon Classic was having a board meeting, eliminating many possible crew members. I emailed my entire company, looking for anyone available for this historic flight. No luck.
So that day passed by with no flight. I really appreciated it when fellow balloonist Jim Fromm dropped by my house to offer sympathies. It was nice to know someone understood!
Another good day did come however. This time I had good crew. However it took longer than expected to get the balloon together. By the time it was put together, it was too late to take off. Winds were light, and we were headed towards an area with a poor road grid.
That was ok though. I ended up just flying across the field. Winds were light enough it took a while to even do that. After that I just kept the balloon standing so that the fabric would start to 'shrink to fit'. I figured it was better to have the initial shrinking go on while I was on the ground.
Subsequent flights have made me very happy with the balloon. I flew a morning flight 90 minutes long, using only 12.5 galloons of propane.
The hardest part is that I practically had to relearn how to fly. My previous balloon was quite porous. When I burn to level out in my new balloon, I end up in a climb. If I vent to start a decent, what would have sent me plummeting to the ground now only seems to slightly slow my ascent. It took a while to learn to be more aggressive with the vent, and to not burn as much. If I have to really pull out the top, the balloon will stop nice and fast.