Police hot air balloon makes ‘random landing’

Neighbours in a New Jersey suburb were surprised recently when a hot air balloon landed into a homeowner’s backyard.

Reassuringly, the 100ft tall balloon did not land as an emergency. Such landings are swiftly becoming a common occurrence in the Gloucester County housing development, thanks to neighbouring Deptford Township’s First and Finest balloon crew.

Steve Moylan, a former Police Lieutenant in Deptford, created First and Finest back in 1998 to act as a tool for community relations with law enforcement within the town. As with all hot air balloon flights, they are reliant on the correct weather conditions, and when they are right the crew can take to the skies for flights of up to an hour.

The crew comprise of police volunteers, firefighters and other emergency medical personnel, all of whom are certified to fly the balloon, which is emblazoned with the Deptford Police Department’s logo.

On the ground, a chase crew will await instruction that the pilot is ready to land, before setting off to find an appropriate landing location, as well as seeking the permission of homeowners. Once landed firmly on solid ground, the balloon is usually moved out into the street where local children are offered free tethered rides.

The landings are never scheduled in advance, but the fully qualified crew aims to comply with all FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rules and regulations. When initially launched, people did used to call the emergency services, fearing a disaster, but now people are familiar with the balloon and its motives.

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