Aviation Student Goes 'Up and Away' at Balloon Festival

Published 09.25.2006


Joshua M. Rauch soars above the festival grounds.An aviation maintenance technology student from York County recently got the highlight of his year so far, winning a hot-air balloon ride at this month's Montoursville Rotary Club Fall Foliage Balloon Festival.

Joshua M. Rauch, a Pennsylvania College of Technology junior from Mount Wolf, traveled aloft in "Up and Away," courtesy of Dick Young, a commercial balloon pilot for more than 30 years.

"The view was amazing," Rauch said. "We were heading north by northwest at anywhere from 2,000 feet to less than an inch off the ground. At one point, we were close enough to touch the cornstalks in a farmer's field."

His trip ended north of Warrensville when, after receiving permission from the homeowner, the balloon alighted in a woman's yard. Upon landing, Rauch recounted, the "chase vehicles" arrived and the crew helped dismantle the craft.

"This was an interesting process because the entire six-story balloon fit into a small bag that weighed somewhere around 200 pounds," he said. "The basket weighed less than that, at nearly 150 pounds. The balloon itself is made of over 750 square yards of fabric, with nearly eight miles of thread sewing the whole works together."

A bird's-eye view of the college's Lumley Aviation Center from a hot-air balloon.Once the balloon was "torn down" and put away, it was time to celebrate with sparkling cider and an array of fruits, cakes and pastries.

"This is a tradition that dates all the way back to the first Frenchman who successfully and safely landed a hot-air balloon in the early 1930s," Rauch explained. "This same Frenchman also started another tradition (in which) the pilot of the balloon gives, ceremonially, a bottle of champagne to the land owner whose property he landed on."

Rauch said the ride was his greatest experience since an acrobatic flight in an Acro-Sport II piloted by Scott D. Welch, a Penn College faculty member, last summer.

"This was a different kind of thrill. In a balloon, it was so quiet and serene that you could carry on conversations with people on the ground," Rauch said. "It was just an unbelievable experience. The ride, for someone who had to pay for it, would have cost nearly $120. It is worth well more than that."

Red-skirted 'Up and Away' on the ground.Six-story balloon collapses to compact 'carry-on' size

( Photos courtesy of Joshua M. Rauch)