Open season on balloons???

I’m glad I’m not flying a hot air balloon these days — especially an all white one.

The recent shoot-down of four high altitude balloons by the U.S. Air Force over the U.S. and Canada made me wonder if some loose cannon might decide that any large orb seen floating in the sky might be fair game for target practice. I really doubt that will happen, but it certainly crossed my mind and I suspect it has crossed the minds of other hot air balloon pilots recently.

I didn’t fly it, but I worked with another pilot several years ago who had a solid white balloon. It was used in a television commercial that advertised a European fragrance called “Joop.”

The filming took place in the dunes at White Sands National Park (then just a National Monument). The balloon owner from California did logistical support for movies, television and video productions and shipped the balloon envelope to Alamogordo. Because of problems associated with shipping a balloon basket with propane tanks, he contacted me to see if he could borrow the basket from the balloon I was flying at the time that was compatible with his envelope. My late friend and fellow pilot Bob Haynes and I jumped at the chance to be on the set of a video production and drove our basket from Las Cruces to White Sands to assist with filming the commercial.

Illustration of what the all whitehot air balloon looked like.

The script for the commercial went something like this:

A beautiful woman is running away from her love interest because she wants to establish her freedom. She spritzes herself with “Joop” cologne, then hops into an illogically waiting hot air balloon and flies away across the White Sands to her freedom.

As you might expect on the set of any movie/video production, there was a lot of standing around and waiting, but it was all interesting. (We at least got a great lunch out of the deal). The balloon owner did inflate the all-white balloon and tethered it for the scene of the beautiful woman flying away to freedom. But in the end, the director decided to go with a close-up shot of the woman in the basket as it was lifted into the air by a hidden large fork-lift.

I got a VHS video tape of the commercial after it was produced, but I’m not sure I can find it anywhere.

However, if the guy from California still has that balloon, I suspect he’s keeping it out of the air these days.

And in conjunction with that, I found this on the Internet a couple of days ago. It was from a woman who claimed to have been following a suspicious all-white spy balloon for several miles over California, only to come to the realization that it was just a splotch of bird poop on her windshield.

Looks pretty suspicious to me.

Again, the Chinese spy balloon incident continues to provide endless comedic diversions.

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