A Novel Balloon Experiment – 1909

A Novel Balloon Experiment – 1909

     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vermont) on July 28, 1909.  The name of the balloon mentioned is the “Pittsfield”, named for Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

    Pittsfield Aeronaut Uses Novel Experiment To Descend

     “Conway, Mass.  July 28 – Parachuting his balloon, Pittsfield, at a height of over two miles by loosening the appendix cord and allowing the lower part of the balloon to rise into the netting, Dr. S. S. Stowell of Pittsfield, in his first trip as pilot yesterday made a drop to earth.  The experiment was probably the first of its nature ever tried in this country.

     The balloon ascended from Pittsfield at 10:25 o’clock.  The passengers were John T. Manning of that city, and Mrs. Blanche Hutz, a nurse in Bellevue Hospital, New York.  Over Ashland and Buckland the aeronauts struck a vortex, which once before has troubled balloonists, and were swept rapidly upward to over two miles.

     At this height, with but one bag of ballast left, Dr. Stowell conceived the idea of parachuting his balloon and allowing it to take its own course to earth rather then use the valve cord and allow gas to escape.  The appendix cord was loosened and the Pittsfield, resolving itself into a monster toadstool, started slowly earthward.

     The balloon settled over Shelburne Falls and Conway and came to rest without a jolt in a field in Conway at 1 o’clock.”      

     Source: The Bennington Evening Banner, “Pittsfield Aeronaut Uses Novel  Experiment To Descend”, July 28, 1909

Springfield, MA – May 27, 1910

Springfield, Massachusetts – May 27, 1910

     At 3:15 p.m. on May 27, 1910, the balloon Pittsfield took off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Aboard were two men, J. Walter Flagg, and W. J. Kelley, both of Worcester, Mass.  After drifting south eastward for more than two hours, they decided to land at 5:30 p.m.  By this time they were somewhere above the city of Springfield, Massachusetts.

      After dropping two bags of ballast-sand overboard, the Pittsfield began to descend from an altitude of 7,800 feet.  However, it was noticed that as she was dropping, she was also gaining speed, and without warning suddenly began a rapid and uncontrolled fall from the sky.  The balloon dropped so fast that the occupants were forced to cling to the rigging lest they be pitched into space, and were therefore unable to toss out any further ballast to lighten the load. 

     The Pittsfield was headed straight for the Springfield Country Club, and several golfers happened to notice what was taking place, but were powerless to do anything.  Flagg and Kelley, certain that a crash landing was imminent, scrambled up into the rope rigging so as not to be in the gondola at the moment of impact.

     Then, by some miracle, the balloon suddenly decelerated while it was still barely 100 feet in the air, and instead of being dashed to pieces, came down with a hard thud on the greens.  Neither man was seriously injured.    


     New York Times, “Aeronauts’ Narrow Escape”, May 28, 1910

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