Ed Chapman knows a thing or two about weather.
When Paxton Calvanese, the developer of weather app Wx24Pilot, produced an online weather quiz for aviators, he anticipated that flight students, flight instructors and professional pilots would participate.
But Calvanese was pleased to learn that the winner is not only a fixed-wing pilot in the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, but also a balloon aeronaut with over 25,000 hours in airplanes and balloons, and the Chief Aeronaut for BalloonRidesMinnesota.com.
Chapman was thrilled to learn that his weather expertise and interest — and the time he took to take the 20-question quiz — was rewarded as the sole winner of flight instructor and author Rod Machado’s new course, Handling In-Flight Emergencies.
Chapman has set 20 world records in hot air balloons for distance, duration and high altitude, and has flown more than 5,000 passengers.
So, how do balloon aeronauts think differently about weather than other pilots?
“As balloon pilots, we’re much more tuned in to weather events than our fixed wing brethren,” said Chapman. “We need to know what’s going on now, and what will be happening two to three hours from now.”
While other pilots may only be interested in surface winds at their landing locations and winds aloft, balloon aeronauts are concerned about winds at 95 feet, 150 feet, and 200 feet. Since the balloon itself may be 80 feet tall, winds at several altitudes might affect their speed and navigation at once.
Surface winds are also a much larger factor than for most of their fellow pilots.
“Landing speeds at over 10 knots make it very easy to sprain an ankle or a knee, so we pay very close attention to that,” said Chapman.
He indicated that he takes every opportunity to learn about weather.
“In all of the many hours of flying, and the many checkrides I’ve had, I’ve never had a check pilot fault me for knowing too much about weather!” he jokes.
Chapman used the username Stormy105 to take the quiz and enter the contest. His email address was the only thing known about him at the time his entry was selected at random.
“Every email address has a story behind it,” he said.
Balloons, like boats, have names, and the balloon he used to achieve 19 of the 20 world records he has set was a black balloon with four lightning bolts, appropriately named Stormy Weather.