Thurston Classic - Meadville, PA
by BEN MILLER
photos Debby Young and Monica Janard
The Thurston Classic celebrated its 25th Anniversary and did so with very special scheduled events. The main attraction this year (other than the first appearance of the Special Shape balloon Pea-nuts, the inverted flying elephant) was the presence of another very special balloon, the maiden flight of a Burt Padelt built Hydrogen filled gas balloon. The historic flight of this Hydrogen balloon commemorated the history of gas ballooning in Meadville in the late 1800’s by Samuel and Alic Thurston who both flew over two hundred gas balloon flights from the Meadville area during their life time. For this special event, Organizer and pilot Ted Watts planned a special Wednesday evening launch with builder Burt Padelt and fellow pilot Mike Emich for the gas balloon to kick off the event. Mother Nature however decided against this scheduled launch and forced the launch to be re-scheduled for Saturday morning. The thunderstorms and showers that hindered the gas balloon launch on Wednesday evening affected the traditional Thursday evening GlOW and forced the postponement of that event as well.
When Friday arrived the rain began exiting the area with a high pressure system filling in behind it. This set up for a fairly decent, breezy evening sponsor flight for the first launch of the weekend. Due to the amount of rain that the Meadville area received in the days leading up to the weekend the grounds in and around the flying area was completely saturated. The conditions of the fields at the Roberston Sports Complex within Allegheny College were no different as the launch field was too soft for all vehicles to drive on. As a result, Competition Director Maury Sullivan responded by turning the traditional hare and hound sponsor flight into a Fly IN task/ Hare and hound. Pilots ventured southwest of the complex and flew in to the fly in, then were challenged with a hare and hound, with the two hares to choose to follow. Consistently changing wind directions only allowed several pilots to make the Fly IN, with only two pilots achieving scores. No hounds achieved throws at the hare landings.
Saturday Morning: Tasks 1,2,3,4 and a gas balloon launch.
Saturday morning came with two events occurring simultaneously. The scheduled gas balloon launch finally received the green light and lifted Ted Watts, Mike Emich and Burt Padelt into the air at 6:15am from the main launch grounds. The second launch event was the first competition flight of the weekend with Director Sullivan calling a 4 part task: a Fly IN, Maximum Distance Double Drop (both at the main launch field), a hesitation Waltz with three targets to choose from and a Watership Down, with Roger Miller flying as the “hare”. Because of the lingering moisture in the area from all the recent rains, fog developed along the river valley just west of the city which postponed the go ahead for competitors until a 7:30 am launch and for the fog to lift (although some pilots reported having to take off in some fog layer present). Most pilots chose launch sites west of the main field and maintained a direction to the east throughout the majority of the flight, giving pilots some steerage to work with. However, at the conclusion of the flight several pilots were able to complete at least one or two tasks with only a couple pilots completing three of the four tasks assigned. No pilot was able to achieve the Watership Down task. Limited scoring was in forced during this flight, even though the pilots still were assigned the Garmin loggers to track their flight paths.
Saturday evening Maury Sullivan called a two part task (Pilot declared goal and a Hesitation Waltz) with the pilot declared goal being scored with the loggers and the Hesitation Waltz being scored with thrown baggies. However, rain originally forecast to enter the area later on started to indicate a sooner arrival, thus canceling the tasks for the evening. The field was then opened for a brief fly out to entertain the crowd and then several pilots returned quickly back to the field to perform the re-scheduled GLOW that was canceled on Thursday. Sunday morning was canceled with no briefing due to rain showers and wind.
Overall, the 2013 Thurston Classic event concluded with 3 out of the 4 flights scheduled, a glow and one successful gas balloon launch. The standings following top seven pilots for the only competition flight of the weekend were as follows:
7. Louis Merryman
6. Mark McSkimming
5. Ben Miller
4. Debby Young
3. Jeff Sweet
2. Greg Miller
1. Steve Mitchell
Also worthy to note was Wayne Gibbons who had the closet throw to the Sponsor Fly In task. Another successful event concluded with happy Organizers, Pilots, crews and sponsors who graciously support this great event each and every year. Here’s to another 25 years Thurston Classic!
Lastly, Event Organizer Joyce Stevens, who has been involved with the planning of the Thurston Classic since its beginning, when asked what she was going to do after successfully pulling off one of the most memorable Thurston Classic Events, stated (in Superbowl style fashion no- less) that she was “going to go to Disney World!” And she fully meant it when on Sunday morning she left with her family to go spend a week in Orlando for a well deserved vacation!