Central Park --
Overflite's Secret Home Base - overflite
Between 1996 and 1999 we must have launched over 100
balloons. Plus all the other launches before
and in different places. Mostly from the
triangle-shaped grassy area next to Dead Road.
Which is around 69th St. Dead Road runs
alongside the East side of Sheep's Meadow (the big
field you see in the center) and to the West of the
Bandshell. It has no outlets, only
paths. Hence its name. We mostly
flew after sunset, after things quieted down.
Had some wonderful flights.
When the winds were light, the balloons would go
almost straight up, then just stand there, high in
the sky, like pillars of fire. When they flew
towards the skyscrapers we could see their
reflections in the glass. When the clouds were
low, the balloons would fly right through them, then
reappear. When the balloons crossed the East
River or Hudson River they would get jostled by the
change in wind conditions. When we flew at
sunset the balloons got very red and reflective from
the glow. But mostly we flew after dark.
The balloons were also featured in a New York Times
article about things that happen in Central Park
after dark. Including a pic of a launch.
The most common direction for the balloons was up
the NE Corridor to Hells Gate and the Tri-Boro
Bridge and a little beyond, ie. The Bronx (!).
Then North to Harlem or East to Roosevelt Island and
Queens. Then NNW to the George Washington
Bridge. Then due West over the West
Side. Then either SW or SE or due South.
These were the most uncommon. But also among
the most interesting. Since we could see
reflections of the balloons in the windows of the
One balloon "threaded the needle" between the two
spires of the San Remo (lower left on pic).
Central Park West, on the full block between 74th
and 75th Street. People commonly think of it
as the Ghostbusters Building. The balloon
crossed Central Park West at around 73rd
Street. Then came back East through the
spires. Then it went North up Central Park
West to Harlem. Or as said, the balloon "took
Another balloon made a big triangle in the sky, then
flew almost right overhead. This had to do
with light winds moving in different directions at
different altitudes. First it went West.
Then it sent NE. Then it came South back to
Only recall one balloon that flew perfectly straight
up for almost its complete flight. This was on
a very cold possibly below-zero night on the ice on
the Boat Pond (lower right of pic). It was
real late and some homeless guy came out of the
woods and onto the ice to watch the flight. It
was also so cold and so late that the sky and stars
seemed very clear too.
-- The Helicopter Corridor Balloon - Another balloon
flew South over Rockefeller Center during some
big-wig wing-ding when there were a bunch of
helicopters swarming around. Papparazi in the
sky. They just got out of the way and jockeyed
to do whatever they were doing. Looked like a
dogfight over Mid-Town. With the balloon
flying right between their lines.
-- The Hells-Gate Balloon. Real
eye-opener. This was in Carl Schultz Park, the
park along East River south of Gracie Mansion.
Built over FDR Drive. Which is SSW of Hells
Gate. Which is the convergence of two separate
tidal systems, ie. the East River estuary and
Long Island Sound. The waters are turbulent
and dangerous. Hence the name. Anyway...
the balloon managed to climb right through Hells
Gate and was approaching The Bronx. It then
did a free-fall. Then a Lazarus.
Recovering most of its previous altitude before
burning out. Anyway, be aware about
convergences between water and land. Also did
a lot of convergence balloons. Described as
"The Whirlwind." Most of the time the balloons
are successful in these conditions. Or else
they blow out.
-- Police escort out of Manhattan balloon -- This
was when a police helicopter was patrolling Central
Park during the early evening hours. The
helicopter would go around the perimeter of the
park. On the one launch the balloon was
travelling on an ESE trajectory towards the 59th St
Queensboro Bridge while the helicopter was coming
around on its pattern. So the helicopter broke
off from its pattern and followed the balloon
over the bridge. The 59th Street Bridge is
shown in the upper left of the pic.
Only launched a few self-destruct burn-up-tape
balloons. These are made by taping long strips
of scotch tape to the balloon bag. Idea being
for the scotch tape to burn up the balloon bag into
five or six separate pieces. Including
secondary strips. Entire concept is scary, re
tree-crashes or destructive-failure, so only did a
few. Most of the self-destruct balloons flew
away too far to figure out what they did at the end
besides just burn out. But the one balloon
only flew a quarter-mile or so to the north and
hovered at roughly a 45 degree angle. When the
scotch tape self-destruct tape caught fire the bag
caught on fire and split apart and proceeded to rain
down firey molten plastic. So the dying
balloon sort of looked like a lighted waterfall for
maybe 20 seconds or so. It looked real cool.
-- The Richard Nixon tribute launch - 1994 -
This was a triple launch from the pedestrian walkway
bridge on the FDR Drive at 78th Street. On the
night that Richard Nixon died at New York
Presbyterian at 68th Street, between York Ave and
FDR Drive. Or 10 blocks north of the 59th
Street Bridge. We launched three balloons
around midnight from the stairway to the
river. One blew out and fell into the
water. But the other two balloons flew South,
down the East River and past Richard Nixon's
window. After that we went to the nearest
Irish Bar to the hospital and played "Young
Americans" by David Bowie: "Do you remember
President Nixon? Do you remember the bills he
had to pay? Or even yesterday?..."
-- The Princess Di & Mother Theresa tribute
launch - 1997 - This was a triple launch from the
Dead Road triangle. We lighted and launched in
fairly close sequence. First, then second,
then third. All within a minute or so.
With fairly close order launch. As the
balloons reached transition-altitude, which is
usually around 50 feet high or so, a woman in the
crowd shouted: "God bless you Mother Theresa
! God bless you Princess Di !..." The
balloons then travelled NNE on a parallel intersect
with Central Park West on a path to the George
Common phraseology at lighting, release and launch
phase incuded: "Launch is go" - "We are go for
launch." - "We have launch." - "Balloon is go" -
"Balloon is go to launch." - "We have balloon."
-- The DC balloons - 1998 - 2+4 balloons -
Original impeachment eve. 12/16/98. Mall
was quiet around 9pm. Launched two balloons
with short delay from mall at 13th Street.
Balloons flew NNW a few hundred yards east of the
presidential mansion. Guards had good
view. At around a thousand feet
altitude. Quite overhead. Then did
quadruple launch south of the capitol dome by the
power plant. One blew out. Rest went
north, slightly east of dome. Quite
overhead. Horse and buggy stopped to watch
launch. Hoof sounds slowly came to a
stop. Had prior catch & release at sunset
by the reflecting pool. Said I had
constitutional right to protest the impeachment of
the president. Guards called in then let me
go. Walked right between their lines.
With my balloons intact. Turns out the guards
were busy - pre-occupied with Clinton's
missiles. Then post beer w bud launched the
2+4 balloons. No problem. The balloon count
corresponded to the articles of impeachment several
days later. Four proposed. Two delivered
to the doorstep.
-- The Hale-Bobb Balloon Series - 1997 - Night after
night for a long time Hale-Bobb and Venus converged
almost due West over the West Side of
Manhattan. In 1997. Venus from the
left. Hale-Bobb from the right.
Hale-Bobb had a long tail, trailing to the North,
was incredibly bright and was completely
awesome. Hard not to imagine it as a
messenger. Meanwhile we launched numbers of
balloons. Which travelled in various
directions. Then one night the balloon went
due West and converged almost perfectly with
Hale-Bobb and Venus. It reminded me of an old
Chinese saying: "God does not speak."
There is also an old children's song or poem in
"Songs for Parents" by John Farrer (1921) - Guttenberg
If I were a little fire balloon
I'd float aloft to Mars,
I'd pay a call on Venus
And chatter with the stars,
And just as I'd be fluttering across the yellow
The angels would come singing a solemn Sunday tune.
They'd beckon to me gravely,
They'd tell me I could stay,
They'd show me all the jewels
That pave the milky way.
They'd promise me a golden crown
And silver robes like eider-down,
They'd give me harps with shiny strings
And wonderfully fluffy wings;
BUT--I would tell them plainly
I didn't want to die--
Till all the angel cooks had learned
How Sally makes mince pie!