Early-risers in Summerfield on June 22, the first day of the Tigard Festival of Balloons, were startled to see one of the giant hot-air balloons land on Greenleaf Terrace.
“The wind shifted,” said pilot Alan Sanderson, who was flying “High Hopes.” He explained that his balloon was one of the last to lift off from Cook Park, and while the rest of them drifted to the south, which is the expected direction, he ended up heading north, directly toward Portland air space.
And there also was “Little Bull Mountain,” as the locals dub it, looming north of Summerfield. “So I decided to come down,” Sanderson said.
According to Sanderson, the highest wind speed was only 1.8 miles per hour, “and we had to stay low because of the cloud cover. We got to the foot of the hill (Little Bull Mountain) and decided to land while we were ahead.
“I tried to head back to the park but couldn’t do it,” he added.
In the basket with him was Terrie Dean, who is usually his crew chief. “I drive the truck (that follows the balloon), but this time we had a great crew, so I got to fly,” she said.
That great ground crew consisted of Michael Hebda, who lives on Bull Mountain, and Albert Brienen of Beaverton.
After the hot-air balloon touched down, the crew decided to keep the envelope, as the balloon is called, inflated and walk the basket and balloon across Summerfield Drive to the large parking lot at the Clubhouse, which was empty at that time of day.
Floating was a better option than pushing, as the envelope weighs 200 to 250 pounds, and the basket weighs about 500 pounds when fully loaded with fuel, according to Sanderson.
They deflated the balloon, rolled it lengthwise and then stuffed it into a surprisingly small canvas bag before loading it and the basket into the back of the waiting truck with the help of a woman on her way to the grocery store who stopped by to see what was going on.
Seventeen pilots were signed up to participate in the annual festival, and Sanderson said another pilot who took off around the same time he did also landed north of Durham Road, but of all the participants, Sanderson is the best known.
Besides being a commercial pilot since 1992 and having flown more than 880 hours, Sanderson, who is from Albany, owns Lindan Hot Air Service and is a Federal Aviation Administration-certified hot-air balloon repairman; Lindan offers the only FFA-certified repair service in Oregon.
“I have factory-maintenance training on most major balloon brands, and I can repair almost all brands, including some experimental balloons,” Sanderson wrote in an article about the festival in the June Tigard Life.
“Balloons must be inspected annually, so everyone knows Alan,” Dean said.
After the close call, was Sanderson planning to fly again the next morning? “Yep,” he answered.