Tony Sandlin, owner of Midwest Balloon Rides, Inc. (www.MidwestBalloonRides.com), has flown hot air balloons for many years. Sunday August 11, Sandlin and two passengers launched at Noblesville Elementary School around 8:00 p.m. with a southeasterly breeze carrying them toward Geist Reservoir. “Our plan was to land around 116th St., but the winds were blowing a little stronger than we anticipated so we decided to go over the reservoir and land somewhere on the east side,” said Sandlin. “We don’t have a steering wheel so we pretty much have to go wherever the winds take us.”
Once his yellow balloon reached 116th St., the winds slowed from 8-10 miles per hour to about two miles per hour. Sandlin had to make a decision: “Do I try to go over Geist Reservoir and land around 86th and Carroll Rd., or do I set it down on the Fall Creek Rd. Bridge at Geist?”
After consulting with his ground crew, Sandlin decided to land on the bridge since there were no power lines or trees around. Fishers Police were called to help block traffic on the bridge with the assistance of the Department of Natural Resources. “It was a picture-perfect landing,” Tony added.
Several boaters and motorists captured photos of the landing which looked like a promo event. Sandlin explained that landing on a street or cul-de-sac is not uncommon, but added, “The fact that the bridge has so much traffic, and there is water on both sides made this a little more unique.”
Typically, hot air balloons are only flown in the early morning and at sunset to avoid volatile winds that occur during mid-day. Sandlin refuted initial reports that he made an emergency landing. “We were getting dangerously close to nightfall, so if we had tried to go past the bridge and land beyond the reservoir, then it could have put us in an emergency situation.”
Several Geist residents posted messages and photos on the Geist Community Newsletter Facebook page (/atGeist) with stories about a balloon landing on their property or street. While some people felt inconvenienced by the landing, most were very receptive and offered to help the two-person ground grew deflate the balloon – and share a celebratory glass of champagne!