The Hoosier's Maiden Voyage

George Bumbaugh had recently completed constructing the "Hoosier," an Indiana Aero Club balloon set for competition in June 5, 1909 national balloon race. This Indianapolis Star article describes its May 29, 1909 christening by Kathleen Bumbaugh, George's daughter. The event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway attracted "a large party of tourists and sightseers from the around the city and the country" as well as local newspaper reporters. The 80,000 cubic feet balloon was inflated through gas piped into the permanent pipelines built into the infrastructure of the new Speedway. The Speedway claimed that the pipes could pump at the rate of 80,000 cubic feet per hour.
This event not only served to promote the upcoming national balloon championship but also as another training flight for Carl Fisher who needed to complete 10 flights to obtain his license in order to be certified and eligible to compete in the competition as a pilot. Joining Fisher and Bumbaugh in the balloon was balloonist and auto racer Charles A. Coey, Coey's wife and two newspapermen. From the article it is apparent that one of the men was Star reporter Paul Peter Willis (who is usually referred to as "P.P. Willis"). Willis describes the checkerboard-like plowed farmlands and houses of a late spring Indiana setting. He also notes the "trailers," men in cars following the balloon, taking a more circuitous route across the terrain as he watched from a cloudless sky. The weather is described as perfect - evidence of which is Mrs. Coey extracting a compact from her purse to examine her hair unmussed by the gentle atmospheric currents.
As the sun set the air cooled, contracting the balloon's gas and causing involuntary descent. Bumbaugh signaled (it's not clear how) to the trailers of his intention to bring the balloon to terra firma. They lighted gently and with minor incident, despite narrowly skirting a farmhouse, in a wheat field. The basket did knock down a telephone line and damage a fence. The trailers were prominent men in the local automobile industry including future Stutz Motor Company founder Harry Stutz of Marion Automobile Company, George Weidley and Harold O. Smith of Premier Motor Manufacturing Company. The cost of the ride, factoring in gas, trailers and the minor damage was calculated to be $1.00 a minute.

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