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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 23
More Flying, More Drama
So I end up flying on consecutive days again, having flown on the 24th, I fly again the 25th. Another one of those great flying days in Kapadokya. Winds of about 3 mph and different directions available at different altitudes. The main objective of every flight here (as I have mentioned before) is to get into the valleys and fly as close to rock formations as possible. So on this day I climb up pretty high for here (around 2,500 feet above the ground) so I can head towards the Red Valley. I'm up there heading right where I wanted to go and the clouds start to lower a bit. I descend in order to stay out of the clouds and now I'm going south, towards Ortahisar. The only direction you don't really want to go, the same direction I went on my very first flight as a pilot here. So I descend some more to try and get a different direction, and as I get to about 1,000 feet AGL, I notice that we're right above the Open Air Museum. So I continue my descent and fly as low over the O.A.M. as I dared. I did know that our flight area is actually inside a National Park and I wasn't sure what the rules were as far as flying over the Open Air Museum. I could have landed in the parking lot, but a couple of things were going inside my head as I'm making some flying decisions. One, I don't know exactly what the rules are and I know that this is a very revered place. I also know it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If this were America, I wouldn't be allowed to even fly here. I do know that the town of Göreme has a 300 meter (1,000 feet) minimum altitude rule. Another thought was about how I'm the only American to ever come over here and work for a Turkish balloon company. I know of one other American pilot who has flown here, but he came here with an out of country company that comes here every summer and flys for a week. So, knowing that I am an "outsider", don't know the exact rules and considering the nature of the place I'm flying, I keep the basket above the top of the tallest rocks and hope I don't get scolded for flying to low over the Open Air Museum. We still get a great view of the Museum and its formations, and the real treasure of the Open Air Museum is actually inside the rocks. That's where the frescoes are.
So we fly over the Museum and just as soon as I can, I descend so that I can fly amongst the rocks. Even right outside the Museum there are some great formations and fun flying. As I get south of the Museum, the wind changes (when the winds are real light like this, the direction is prone to change) and I end up doing a real lazy slow 180 degree turn. So now, I'm a bit west of the Museum, but heading north again towards our launch site. I also notice one of the balloons from one of the other companies, is way down inside the Open Air Museum. Hmmm, must be legal and okay to do.... to bad I didn't know that, or I could have done that also. That's what I get for being the wind dummy I guess. Oh well, better safe than sorry and at least I won't be looked at as disrespecting a sacred site or anything (might be considered not a very good pilot, but hey, they already think that anyway) . As I fly towards our launch area I start to drift to the east ever so slightly. By the time I reach the road to the Open Air Museum I'm heading right for the launch site of another company, Anatolia Balloons. This is a good thing, as the launch area is a big wide open space with plenty of area to inflate (or in this case deflate) the balloon. Just as I reach the road the already calm wind dies and I'm stalled out over the power lines. Wouldn't you know.... I just need to get another 50 feet.... I can't even use the drop line yet. After about 10 minutes of small, slow, lazy circles that just tease me about getting away from the power lines, I finally get far enough to the north of them that I could land.... except now I've also drifted just far enough east that I'm over some rocks. At least now we can use a drop line, which is what we do, and the crew tows me over to an open spot. Overall, a great flight. The passengers had a great time, tipped well and the crew was joking around laughing and having fun as we packed up the balloon. Below is the Google Earth image from this flight and the link to the .kmz file.
Google Earth image of flight on 2/25/2009
When we get back to the office, Banu once again brings up the cell phone bill. I give her the only two numbers that I would have called and tell her I will be glad to pay for the calls I made, but there are only a few. Oh and I still haven't been paid.

We fly again on the 26th, which makes three days in a row. Not only am I getting some flight time in, but this also means that the company should be making some money and will hopefully pay me someday. Below is the Google Earth image of the flight path and link to the Google Earth file.
Google Earth image of flight on 2/26/2009
Click here for the .kmz file
The flight on the 26th went well. More of a "typical" flight, we went west and dipped into Love Valley. However, we just barely got it in, as by the time I left the office (after breakfast) , the wind was really blowing. Once again, in what is becoming a rather upsetting daily routine, my employer seems hassles me about something. Today, instead of my medical certificate or the phone bill, Banu says to me, "Kevin, your license end in March". Okay, for one thing, my Bi-Annual Flight Review (which every pilot is required to have) is due in March. But every other March (hence the Bi-Annual part) . My BFR is due in March of 2010. NEXT YEAR!
Now for another thing, my employer has had a copy of my pilots license since early November! Don't ask me why they are just now broaching the subject when they knew I was supposed to be here into May. You would think that the minute they got a copy of my license they would have looked to see when it expired. And if they thought it did expire while I was there, you think they would have brought it up more than just two days before March!
Try explaining to someone who doesn't speak (much less understand) English, that no, my license doesn't expire and I only need a Bi-Annual Flight Review once every two years. It's always something. 
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