Northwest NEWS

October, 2001


Take a ride, have fun and enjoy a safe evening

I have to take exception with your recent article "Where have all the balloons gone?".
   The overall tone of the article stresses one item over and over again. Safety. That it's just not safe to fly a balloon over the Sammamish Valley as it once was.
   First, everyone piloting a balloon, for hire or not, is a licensed pilot regulated by the FAA. Pilots are by nature cautious. If there is the slightest suspicion that a flight will be dangerous in any fashion, it is cancelled. This goes for all reputable hot-air balloon companies. No one is out there saying, "Well, things look O.K., I think. I can probably bring all my passengers back safely." The question is one of absolute safety.
   To suggest by inference, that it isn't "as safe" to fly the Sammamish Valley, is pure poppycock. More people have enjoyed a hot-air balloon ride in the Sammamish Valley than any other place in Western Washington.With a perfect record of safety. The Farm Preservation Act precludes the valley floor being used for anything other than agriculture, thus it has changed little in the last decade. Consequently, the widest part of the valley floor, the landing objective, has been largely unchanged.
   The company operating balloons in Woodinville, Over the Rainbow Hot-Air Balloons, is the same company with the same ownership and pilots that began flights in this area, the first company to do so, about 15 years ago.
   The owner, Bill Starr, has maintained a perfect safety record for the entire 15 years of operation in this area. One of his pilots, Dennis Bradley, the second Western Washington resident to own a balloon (since 1974), performed the first flight in the Sammamish Valley (in 1975) and continues to work with Over the Rainbow in the present. Many of those who currently fly in this area learned the skill directly from Dennis or students of his. Mr. Starr's other pilot has 16 years of flight experience with an unblemished safety record. Thus we see about 55 years of balloon flights by these three men with a perfect safety record.
   A balloon ride over the Sammamish Valley offers views west of the Seattle skyline not available east of here. It is the premier locale for hot-air balloon rides in Washington. It is also proven to be perfectly safe.
   Take a ride, have fun and enjoy a quiet safe evening doing so with some really fine people that have served our area for more than most of us have lived here.
   Jeff Boswell, Woodinville