Fisher's View: Balloon Controversy

The articles in this attachment were published June 9, 1909 in the Indianapolis Star. It reports on the results of the national championship balloon race hosted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race started on June 5 but was pretty much over by June 7 as all the balloons had touched down. Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher, who piloted the Indiana, triggered controversy by descending to the ground twice only to continue on insisting that he and his assistant/mentor Captain George L. Bumbaugh had not technically landed.
Carl Fisher is given the byline in the primary article in this attachment but actually called into the Indianapolis Star and essentially gave them a long distance interview. This article begins with a useful callout box that provides the statistics for each of the balloons in terms of distance covered - the deciding metric - and time aloft. The flight of the Indiana was full of drama. Fisher described being caught in a vortex triggered by complicated meteorlogical conditions in what was probably the convergence of cold and warm air fronts the likes of which Captain Bumbaugh had never seen despite over 300 ascensions. At one point their balloon was sucked up some 14,000 feet in the air and into freezing cold. The basket spinning, the men struggled to cover themselves with coats and blankets. The gas in the balloon congealed and started to vacate the bag in the form of white smoke. They descended almost as quickly and just when they had collected themselves they were sucked upward yet again.
Fisher shared his views on the two big controversies of the event - the A. Leo Stevens criticisms and the debate over the Indiana's two "landings" during the contest. This article suggests that Stevens claimed the balloons he designed - the Ohio and the Cleveland - had been tampered with at the Speedway. Earlier reports had it that Stevens did not feel the quality of gas from the gas company was consistent and the last bags inflated, again the Ohio and Cleveland, received a lower grade inflation. Fisher took issue with Stevens' comments and asked for impound of the balloons in question for an assessment.
As for the Indiana's landings Fisher held that they were not "technically" landings because the vessel did not touch the ground. They descended in two Tennessee locations: Shackle Island and the town of Ashland. At Shackle Island they stopped after discovering that the cans used to store their drinking water had previously been used to store oil. After hours of exertion, some in baking heat, they simply needed water. They descended but hovered above the ground sending buckets on ropes down to helpful strangers who provided water they hoisted back to the basket. As for Ashland they apparently rested on railroad ties to recover from the harrowing ride. Fisher intended to explain his circumstances to the Aero Club of America officiating committee but acknowledged that regardless of their decision he had not traveled enough distance to win the competition.
The second article in this attachment speaks to the likely winner of the national championship. Although it was becoming increasingly apparent the St. Louis entry University City with John Berry and Paul McCullough aboard had covered the greatest distance there was enough confusion in the reports that there was still something less than an official recognition of their victory. Since there were two St. Louis entries, the other being the St. Louis III, a report had confused the two balloons and only gave the University City credit for the distance accomplished by the St. Louis III which had landed much earlier. The review of new information about the University City's landing at a greater distance was still pending but this newspaper report acknowledged the new information that had it traveling 375 miles to the 350 miles covered by the New York of A. Holland Forbes who people previously believed had prevailed.

FisherReport060909.pdf2.01 MB