2 de Julio, 2019 – VILLA DE MERLO, ARGENTINA
The inception moment for the Argentina entry into the World Sky Race would fit into an epic movie script. Bob Fowler, CEO of Aerovehicles Inc., and airship pilot met Don Hartsell, Commissioner World Air League out in the middle of a field in rural Argentina during the last total solar eclipse. Hartsell was in Argentina participating in an international balloon expedition consisting of 19 hot air balloons to observe the total solar eclipse. During the critical inflation launch window as the countdown for the total eclipse was in its final minutes, a wind storm unexpectedly burst and blew through the balloon expedition camp. Hot-air balloons with crews were suddenly being dragged through the rocky struggle, colliding into other balloons and entangling crew baskets with one catching fire burning parts of its envelope while frenetically trying to launch. The Swiss Hart balloon on which Hartsell was crewing was bouncing wildly over the rocks, gyrating from side to side, starting to lift without a pilot controlling its bucking. Hartsell was grappling with its topmost tether rope and was about to be dragged or lifted in whatever direction the balloon careened. Bob Fowler, a local volunteer for the balloon event, ran and grabbed the rope with Hartsell. Together they wrangled the balloon until the winds abated. Of the 19 balloons, 6 balloons succeeded in launching, 13 did not.
In the grateful and discovering conversation after, Hartsell and Fowler connected their mutual interests and learned about the friends that they share from around the world. Among Bob’s credentials, he is a certified airship pilot. He moved to Argentina to pursue developing hybrid airship technology. He knew George Spyrou, one of the greatest friends and supporters for the World Sky Race. On the spot, Bob agreed to be the Chairman for the World Sky Race Argentina Local Organizing Committee ALOC.
Apreciativo y satisfecho, Hartsell dijo: “Bob se materializó en un momento terrible y estoy muy contento de que lo haya hecho. No sabía si soltar la correa y ver cómo nuestro globo de expedición se estrellaba contra las rocas o se hinchaba y se dejaba llevar por los cielos cada vez más oscuros. Esto no fue, no es, una metáfora. Era una alineación celestial. Otra prueba de lo pequeño que es nuestro mundo."
Al comenzar los preparativos y planificar el desafío global, Bob Fowler dijo: “Todo el personal de Aerovehicles Inc está extremadamente feliz de ayudar y participar en la World Sky Race. Personalmente, me siento honrado de aceptar el cargo de Presidente del Comité Organizador Local de World Sky Race Argentina ALOC y espero ingresar un dirigible que represente a toda América del Sur".
Since starting their involvement, AVI has made profound contributions to charting the Race route, improving the safety and doability of the entire program. The newest route additions are within the technical capabilities of the Skyships, Zeppelin NTs, and ABC Lightships. The impact of seasonal weather is more refined. Communications, logistic management, and predicted movement of ground crews, flight crew hours aloft, and aircraft maintenance have all been examined to improve and make safer operations on a global basis. The Rules and Regulations for the Race are clearer on the team requirements.