WORKSPACE- August 2010
Text + photograph by Meggan Gould
Joe Shevenell of HOT FUN has been piloting hot-air balloons in southern Maine for 25 years. He launches his balloon from about thirty different sites along a broad swath the Maine coastline and inland to Sebago Lake. His Cape Elizabeth barn houses the balloon and his chase vehicle, Rosie.
Shevenell learned how to fly airplanes in the late 1960s. Although he occasionally flies
as a safety pilot for a friend and is rated to fly fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft, his passion is for balloon aviation.
His balloon is named SKYBOX. “Balloons are like boatstypically you name them,” Shevenell explains. “She’s like a skybox at a stadium, where you look down at a game.” SKYBOX is a 90,000-cubic-foot hot-air balloon that stands 75 feet tall when inflated. The basket is made of wicker, which is lightweight, resilient, and flexible.
Rosie is a shiny, cranberry-red 1984 GMC Suburban. “Rosie typically only sees lovely weather because that’s when we fly balloons,” Shevenell says. “She’s a pretty neat classic vehicle, specifically dedicated to just chasing the balloon.” An inflation fan is mounted on the front, and she is filled with all of the other equipment that the team might use for a flight, including VHF and CB radios, log books, binoculars, maps, a boarding ladder, music, picnic lunches, and a helium tank and balloons to test the wind.
A typical excursion takes about three- and-a-half hours. “We try to make it as interesting as possible for the passengers, but the trip is primarily dictated by wind speed and direction.” Ballooning adventures have included putting down in cow fields, encountering a beehive, touching down in an empty hotel swimming pool, flying alongside radio-controlled model airplanes, and landing at the Portland International Jetport.
Maps are an integral part of ballooning. Shevenell keeps detailed records of the landowners he meets when he touches down on private property, and is usually invited back. “Maine is very wooded. It’s 93 percent covered with trees, and options are limited for landing.”
Jimmy Buffett watches from a signed poster in the corner of the barn. The pinball machine, a gift from a friend, hails from the Pier in Old Orchard Beach. The wall of the barn is lined with cans of varnish for
the basket and the inflation fan’s wooden propeller. “I’ve been a yacht captain, and I try to keep everything looking spiffy.”
Hot Fun First Class Balloon Rides | 2 Moonshadow Ln. | Cape Elizabeth | 207.799.0193 | hotfunballoons.com