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Hot air balloon lands in Pasco neighborhood

Posted at 9:03 AM, May 10, 2016

A hot air balloon landed safely in a Wesley Chapel neighborhood Tuesday morning.

It happened in Westbrook Estates.

Pictures from witnesses show the balloon landed safely in the street.

No one was injured.

According to the pilot, Bob Carlton, the wind shifted and he radioed to make an emergency landing at a nearby elementary school.  With rapidly changing conditions, Carlton said he could not make it to the school so he brought the balloon down at the intersection of Silverleaf Way and Gateway Boulevard.

On board the balloon, a couple celebrating their one year anniversary.

"They had a great time, guaranteed!" explained Carlton.  "No one was in any danger at any time. Our biggest danger in ballooning is power lines and there are no power lines in that neighborhood."

ABC Action News spoke to Jessica Warren, owner of American Balloons in Land O'Lakes, about hot air balloon safety.  Warren has been a hot air balloon pilot for 18 years.

Warren's company is not affiliated with this emergency landing.

Q: How safe is it to be in a hot air balloon?

A: Hot air balloons are really safe.  They are inspected every time they launch and every time they land which is way more than an airplane.  We've been flying for 18 years with no incidents or accidents and we fly sometimes seven days a week.

Q: How do you monitor weather?

A:  We monitor weather constantly, every two hours.  We watch weather for the next day's forecast.

Q: Do you have to be particular with the wind?

A:  Absolutely, especially here in Florida because we get the sea breeze.  That is why you never see us in the evening because the sea breeze changes our direction and it is just not safe with thermal activity and sea breeze.  It makes things really difficult.  The best time of day for us to fly is sunrise.

Q: What agency oversees your companies?

A: We are an aircraft, we do report to the FAA.  However, we are not like an airplane.  We don't call a tower because we don't have a transponder.  We have restrictions and to where we fly and how high they fly.  We have aircraft radios so we do talk to the planes in the area, especially here at Tampa North.  We make them aware of when we are in the air in the morning.  We communicate with our chase crews on the ground. 

Q:  You don't have a steering wheel and you don't have brakes?

A:  We use Mother Nature to guide us.  So at 500 feet you may go right and at 900 feet you may go left.  So when you see balloons going low is may be because we are aiming for a field and need to get to the right or when you see us really high we may be looking for speed or wind. 

Q: How high do the balloons go?

A:  We usually stay anywhere from 500-3,000 feet in this area.

Q: What is a chase crew?

A: A chase crew is the group of people, could be one person, could be three, that are on the ground and they follow the balloon and keep in contact with the balloon so we know where you took off and where you launched from.  So the chase crew puts the balloon together and packs the balloon up.