Sunny ending for Florida hot air balloon festival

The New Smyrna Beach Balloon and Sky Festival took place recently, with thousands of spectators eventually turning up to watch.

After questionable weather conditions on the Friday and Saturday of the three day event, held from the 29th-31st March, Sunday witnessed pilots performing various acrobatic movements in the sky. One such flyer was Patty Wagstaff, who impressed the crowds with close flybys and loops in the air.

Beginning the show with a flag jump by the Skybolts Precision Skydive Team, the event also featured some good-humoured acts, such as a 300mph jet-powered school bus.

Nearby to the event, pilots gave fans rides in a number of classic planes and helicopters. One of these, the Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter, served during the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, two Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, or ‘Hueys’, were able to hold up to eight people at a time during a flight. As utility helicopters, they were used for medical evacuations, cargo transport, and search and rescue during the same conflict.

The hot air balloon glows had to be cancelled on the first two days due to high winds reaching up to 21mph. Thunderstorms and a tornado watch additionally caused the festival to be closed down for a number of hours between 12-5pm on the Saturday.

The winds had calmed by the third day, but were still gusting between 14-21mph, meaning that the balloons could not fly. However, the event was considered an overall success, and, although figures are yet to be made official, it is likely that Sunday saw the largest turn out of people on record.

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