Sunday, November 22, 2020

"I planned that landing from a mile out," balloon pilot Gilbert Martin

GLEN ALLEN, Virginia — A hot air balloon carrying three passengers and a pilot landed in a Glen Allen neighborhood Sunday morning.

It was a planned landing, according to the pilot, Gilbert Martin, who is also the president of Balloons Over Virginia.

"I planned that landing from a mile out," Martin said Sunday. "It was never a question of anyone being injured. All three passengers knew we were landing there."

It's a fairly routine circumstance to land in a subdivision with no above-ground power lines, according to Martin. The pilot has up to 10 landing spots picked out during a flight, depending on the wind, he said. The balloon touched down on Nuckols Road in the Crystal Creek subdivision around 8:30 a.m.

Martin, who has been flying balloons for 32 years and has flown more than 16,000 people, said he initially wanted to land at Glen Allen High School, where another balloon he was flying with landed. But when the wind changed, he picked the subdivision, which was less than a mile away.

"It was the next-best place to land," Martin said. "We land in neighborhoods all the time."

"I was trying to steer to the school, but the wind shifted," he said, adding that he would never try to land a balloon if there were above-ground power lines.

Martin lives in Richmond's West End and is familiar with the area.

"I knew there were no power lines," he said. "It's not atypical that we land [in neighborhoods]. It was essentially a four-lane road."

Martin said he chose the landing spot because it was at a dead-end street, and he knew it wouldn't disrupt traffic.

Martin's Balloons Over Virginia crew, which tracks the flights on GPS, was there in minutes after the landing.

Martin said because of how big the balloon is — 90 feet tall and some 120,000 cubic feet — it seems like landing anywhere but an open field is dangerous. But what people fail to realize, he said, is that it's very safe.

"The only thing I'm landing is the basket," he said. "It's smaller than a car. ... You have a lot of control."

Martin, a commercial pilot, said he never has had an incident or accident in his 32-year career.

"Of course you want to land [in an open field], but it doesn't always work out that way," he said.

The balloon took off near Route 1 in Hanover County and the flight lasted about an hour, according to Martin.


  1. Why is he having to be so defensive? Did the suburban neighborhood Karens come screaming out of their homes thinking the balloon was going to harm their precious Noahs and Olivias?

    1. Richmond locals remember the 2014 accident at Meadow Event Park where a balloon hit power lines while landing, did out of control climb and flew along on fire with victims screaming for help. Bodies of two Richmond passengers and the pilot were found separately on the ground along the debris path.

      This pilot talks about making sure no power lines in landing areas because of that horrific 2014 accident. See links below - no need to smear the locals with the trendy "Karens" remark.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.