By T.Sheppard/G. Britton
Two Michigan pilots flew from West Bend Airport to Stanton Michigan on Saturday February 13, 1982 in a Cameron 077.
Jeff VanAlstine, who holds the worlds distance record with Bruce Comstock in a Cameron 104, together with Phil Glebe came to West Bend during the week of February 13 to prepare for their flight across the lake. The flight was originally planned for Friday but the winds aloft did not cooperate and it was postponed for 24 hours.
The balloon was a standard Cameron 077 with additional fuel tanks to permit five hours of flight time. A standard aircraft radio together with a transponder were also carried. Both pilots wore dry suits which would keep them afloat and alive in Lake Michigan indefinitely.
The balloon and tanks were stored inside at room temperature with additional heat tapes plugged in until flight time to provide high enough pressure for the anticipated flight.
The flight from West Bend to the lake allowed them time to check all systems before the actual crossing. Once airborne they found they were carrying too much weight and one of the additional tanks had to be jettisoned about 10 miles from the airport. This tank was later recovered by a Balloon SWAT Team.
The flight to the lake was flown at 6100ft and took 31 minutes. The balloon crossed the shoreline at 120.02hrs, five miles north of Port Washington. The actual lake crossing took 1hr 51mins at an altitude of 11,500ft. The Michigan shore line was crossed just north of Muskegon.
Together with Debbie Spaeth and Dave Millin we followed the balloon to the lake in a Cessna 172 (N124EE). The following are some of the radio transmissions between the balloon, ATC and 124EE.
Jeff: One two four echo echo, could you give us a good center frequency for this area?
124EE: Standby, weâ€™ll get one and call you back.
124EE: Jeff, call Milwaukee Approach on 124.75. That is the frequency of the remote facility in
Jeff: Milwaukee Approach, do you copy two two one Charlie Brown at West Bend?
MKE: Two two one Charlie Brown squak seven one three zero and state type aircraft and destination.
Jeff: We are free balloon.
MKE: Say again.
Jeff: Two two one Charlie Brown is a FREE BALLOON.
MKE: Would you repeat that one more time and state your landing destination.
Jeff: Charlie Brown is a FREE BALLOON and weâ€™d like to land, ah, well uh, somewhere in Michigan.
MKE: Two two one Charlie Brown is in radar contact. What is your altitude?
Jeff: We are at 5500 now.
MKE: Charlie Brown contact Chicago Center on 125.7
Jeff: Roger, Center on one twenty five point seven.
Jeff: Chicago Center, two two one Charlie Brown with you.
CHI: Charlie Brown is in radar contact. What is your intended attitude?
Jeff: We plan on crossing at 9500ft.
CHI: OK, 9500 ft. Remain VFR at all times. What is you intended route and final landing location?
Jeff: We plan to cross Lake Michigan and then land somewhere on the other side.
CHI: Charlie Brown, traffic at two oâ€™clock within half mile.
124EE: Chicago Center, this is one two four Echo Echo. We are the traffic you advised Charlie Brown
of and we do have them in sight.
Jeff: One two four Echo Echo go back to twenty three five.
124EE: Charlie Brown are you on the frequency?
Jeff: Affirmative, thanks for the assistance.
124EE: Jeff, you are just crossing the shore line, can you see the lake OK
Jeff: Yes, we can see the lake. Phil says it looks big and very cold!
124EE: Do you have an estimated ground speed?
Jeff: Yes we figure about 35 knots at this altitude with winds out of 280.
124EE: Sounds good, have a great flight. We will head back soon.
Jeff: Center, two two one Charlie Brown is back with you.
CHI: Roger, Charlie Brown. Are you climbing to 9500?
Jeff: Negative, weâ€™ll stay at 7500 for now.
CHI: What is your present heading?
Jeff: Ah, uh, well, lets see, Iâ€™d ah, guess probably about 90. Do you have a ground speed read out on us?
CJH: Yeah, radar currently shows about 30 knots. Watch for traffic at two oâ€™clock, 5 miles.
We were able to get some slides and will show them at a future meeting.
The landing in Michigan was not easy and there were some very anxious moments. With gusty wind conditions and low fuel pressure both pilots were happy when they were on the ground.