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 Videos, news, articles, events, and what others have written about us...

Light Flight Balloons was pleased to be invited to be a part of the inaugural Firefly Music Festival in the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, Dover Delaware, in 2012. We tethered two hot air balloons and provided rides to a host of VIP's, Artists, and Festival goers. Since then,  we have returned in 2013 and 2014. The balloon has become an iconic part of Firefly; utilized as a backdrop to some of the biggest names in music and as a landmark for festival goers. Thank you Red Frog Events for making us a part of the Firefly tradition!

           Tethered night and day at Firefly 2014  Photos Courtesy E. Drew






Lead Singer Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips tries his hand at the burner. Photo Courtesy Mr. Joe Papeo



AARP Video

  Our thanks to Dean and Locked On Productions for their filming of an episode of My Generation for AARP. It chronicles a flight for two couples in the Fall of 2011 and lets you get to know our Chief Pilot Mike. It may be viewed here with some nice aerial shots of Northern Harford County and the Fawn Grove, PA area.



An episode of Where's Wini? with Ms. Wini Roche from the Harford County Office of Tourism, 2011

"Can you believe the shadow of the balloon was shaped like a heart!? What an unforgettable experience to see Harford County (and PA) from above the tree tops! I promise that you wonít be disappointed. Perhaps itís a special occasion or maybe you have decided to get real about making each day countÖ whatever the reason- do it!"


"Thank you Brad & Brian of Segami Media and Mike Gerred from Light Flight Balloon Adventures (who went above and beyond for us) and for helping folks LOVE Harford County from your beautiful balloons for over 30 years!"




October 2010

    We recently had the rare opportunity to participate in a formation photo shoot with a very historic airplane (aside from our own of course). We joined up with a 1939 Piper Cub powered with a Lenape Papoose three cylinder radial engine. The significance is that there are only a handful of these aircraft in existence with this unusual radial engine configuration. The airplane was restored by Gorge Air Service at Harford County Airport. After an initial test flight, we took off together; a 1941 Stearman with a seven cylinder 220 hp radial engine and the little 3 cylinder 50 hp powered Cub. For a look at some great photos of the Lenape Cub, Barnstormer Aero's Stearman, and the flight, you may go to SMBRJ Photography The aerials were shot by Mike Malat in a Citabria flown by Ben Anderson. There is nothing quite like two yellow birds in the air together over the beautiful fall foliage to make a photographers dreams come true. It was also fun to fly alongside such a unique airplane. The Cub's airspeed was about 70 mph so both the Citabria and the Stearman had to slow up some for the event. It's not often when we have to slow up for something! It was a memorable flight on a crisp fall day.

Love is in the (Bel) Air

A local couple became engaged with the help of a hot air balloon.

Hot air balloons conjure up notions of the romance and adventure of bygone days. They are very much a part of the present, though, in Harford County and the romance of ballooning is still alive and well thanks to Light Flight Balloons of Bel Air.

At a recent hot air ballooning event in Harford County, Dan and Mary Ann Bogarty of Jarrettsville relayed the romance of one of their first rides five years ago. At the time, in April 2005, Dan had decided that after nine years of dating it was time to propose to Mary Ann. To do so he enlisted the help of hot air balloon pilot Michael Gerred, owner of Light Flight Balloons of Bel Air, the only such company in the county. Dan convinced Mary Ann and her mom, who is afraid of heights, that the balloon trip was an Easter present. But he had to wait until Mary Ann booked the trip to put his scheme into motion.

"I didn't call to book the trip until July," she said. Finally, the ladies went airborne and the fear of heights faded in five minutes, according to Mary Ann.

They enjoyed their scenic ride above the meandering Deer Creek as Dan followed in the chase vehicle. When landing approached, Gerred called in a warning over the phone. The prospective husband gathered up his three-foot tall, white, painted 2x4 letters and set to work. "I was running on adrenaline," Dan said. "I probably couldn't do it today."

As the balloon swung around to land at Jarrettsville Nurseries, he knew she had seen his message because he heard her scream. That was a "yes." I didn't think he was ever going to ask," Mary Ann said. "Michael told me, 'Don't do it.' He said that it never works," Dan said. "I'm glad he didn't listen," Mary Ann replied.

A little more than five years later, they still share a love for each other as well as for hot air balloons. Gerred's Light Flight Balloons is the oldest ride-operating company in Maryland. It's been in operation for nearly 30 years. "I have a master's in health care administration. I did that for 15 years and I left it 20 years ago to fly full time. I like this office better," he said, patting the basket.

The idea of floating in the air with nothing but a wicker basket between you and the earth may not appeal to everyone, especially to those with a fear of heights, but the pilot has some comforting words. "It only takes about five minutes and then they're fine," Gerred said. Here is how the adventure works: As the basket is laid on the ground sideways and attached, the seven story tall balloon is initially inflated using two industrial fans to force air into the silky fabric.

Crews then use tethers to pull the balloon and basket upright and the propane burners force 50 million British Thermal Units worth of hot air into the balloon. There is an exhilarating whoosh as the pilot releases the fiery blasts, which resemble the tail end of a dragster. The heat from the blue-white flames gently lifts passengers skyward. Whatever initial fears passengers have quickly disappear among the clouds. All too soon, the ride is over and the landing is barely felt.

A tradition traced to France, one of ballooning's homes, is to have a champagne toast after landing.  

Light Flight Balloons offers half-hour and one-hour flights at the rates of $150 and $220, respectively, per person. Its three pilots are FAA licensed and its seven balloons are FAA certified. Find out more at or by calling 410-836-1116.



This article is part of Baltimore's Info 101

Ballooning takes to the sky

June 10, 2010 7:08 AMBaltimore Destinations Travel ExaminerDavid Jennings





Light Flight Balloons ready for take off from Muddy Creek Forks
Light Flight Balloons ready for take off from Muddy Creek Forks
by jenningsdavidl

This time of year, throughout the Maryland and Pennsylvania border area, all you need to do is look skyward in the late afternoon to see huge colorful balloons gently floating through the sky. If you're close enough, you can hear the swoosh sound of the propane burners firing up the air inside the balloon to keep it aloft.

On a recent flight over the Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania area, I took my first balloon ride, accompanied by my family and pilot Mike Gerred, president of Light Flight Balloons. Based out of Aldino Airport in Churchville Maryland, the launching site for the balloon can be in anyone of over 30 sites throughout the Maryland/Pennsylvania area. Typically the launch site is a pre-arranged farm or open area large enough to unfurl the balloon as it is inflated. The area we launched from,
Muddy Creek Forks, is a protected area in a small valley where the wind was calm.

Once the balloon was inflated, first using fans to open the envelope and then heating the air with a giant propane generated flame, we climbed into the wicker basket. Not sure what to expect, and a bit nervous at heights, I was amazed at how gently we rose through the air towards the trees. Our aerial nature walk took us close enough to touch the leaves of the tallest trees in the area and as high as 2100 feet above the ground. The visibility was well over 100 miles. We could see the skyline in Baltimore to the west and the Salem Nuclear generating steam plume to the east.

The ride was one of the most relaxing experiences I have had, with no sensation of wind, and a calming effect with the earth drifting underneath our feet at about 3 to 4 miles an hour. It was so beautiful the heights were never a problem.

There are several balloon businesses in the area ready to take you up for a special occasion, a new adventure, or romantic getaway. Buyers should do their research before signing up for a flight. Referrals are one of the best sources of finding a reputable company, as well as visiting the business and talking directly with the pilot. Some web sites serve as brokers and don't own any balloons, serving only as a pass through for making the reservation and taking a cut of your money.

Balloons come in all sizes, colors and shapes. Each year, in the fall, visitors to the Southwest can see up to 700 balloons representing one-third of the world's countries at the
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. These balloons fill the sky in the traditional balloon shape as well as footballs, soccer balls, stage coaches, beer bottles, cartoon characters, even castles in the air. The gondolas that carry the passengers also vary in size and design with the typical basket being made of wicker. In our ride we fit four, plus the pilot, comfortably in the gondola. Some baskets can hold up to twenty passengers.

Our flight lasted just over an hour which is much longer than the first hot air balloon flight that was made by a duck a rooster and a sheep in 1783. Landing is inevitable and unpredictable. once you take to the sky the only questions are where and how hard will the landing be. As we drifted over the small towns and farms we could see cars pulling over to watch the huge balloon. People would yell and wave, and we would send our greetings earthward. Throughout the flight the chase van would follow us on the roads below keeping just ahead or behind us. When it came time to land the pilot looked for an open area near a road so the balloon could be loaded and hauled away easily. Our friendly pilot would talk to people as we floated along and at one point asked a farmer if we could land in his field, "of course", came the reply and we very gently touched down. There was no dragging or spilling out of the basket, as might have happened in high winds or with an inexperienced pilot. We finished the flight with a traditional balloon poem and champagne toast (in our case a sparkling cider toast).


Overcoming a fear of heights

Friday, October 30, 2009


Imagine floating in a basket 1,400 feet in the air with nothing keeping you inside but your desire not to fall. Did we mention you have little control over the direction you go?
Sure, it might sound scary (or like a stunt to snag a reality TV show), but riding in a hot-air balloon with an experienced pilot is a serene way to view the world.

The weather on a recent Sunday evening -- low humidity, clear skies, temperatures in the 70s -- is ideal for flying. Veteran balloon pilot Michael Gerred hops into the basket with his four passengers, instructs his staff members who are holding the 90-foot-tall balloon earthbound to let go, and the adventure begins.

The 360-degree views are spectacular. To the southeast, the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. To the southwest, the Baltimore skyline is visible in the distance. Directly under the basket is a thick canopy of greens, reds, oranges and gold's occasionally broken up by farms. The sensation is similar to that of being in a boat. The ride is smooth, even when people move around in the basket. Since the balloon is flying with the wind, it doesn't feel windy at all.

Gerred has flown so long that he understands that winds change direction and speed at different altitudes. With that knowledge he can make the balloon go left or right or wherever else he wants, including into the trees. "[Leaves] are always freshest right off the top of the tree," Gerred says as he grabs a branch for a memento of the trip.

Landing is just as smooth as flying. But the best part of the adventure comes at the very end, when Gerred pops open a bottle of champagne -- a ballooner's tradition! -- and toasts, with the passengers, another safe ride.

Sunday, August 10, 2008 Kurt Ramsey

I Took An Open Cockpit Bi-Plane Ride Today

Today, as a belated father's day gift I got to take a half hour ride in an open cockpit bi-plane. Wow doesn't even begin to describe it.

The trip was taken from the Harford County Maryland Airport in Churchville, about 10 minutes from Cal Ripken Stadium just outside of Aberdeen, MD.

My wife, my two children and their spouses, as well as my grandsons all showed up for the event. We were all there early and got to look at the bright yellow 1942 Stearman Navy Trainer that's been restored to mint condition and is owned by Mike Gerred of Barnstormer Aero in Bel Air, MD.

Mike didn't show up until about 11:15 for an 11;30 flight and when I first saw him, I thought, "Here's a husky guy about 50 years old who I'm going to let drag me through the sunlit Maryland skies for half an hour. I hope he knows what he's doing."

Then Mike took his sunglasses off and I saw the confidence and competence in his ice blue eyes. Here was a guy who, when he talked to you, looked you right in the eye and made you feel totally confident that things were going to be lots of fun once we climbed aboard his aircraft and entered sacred airspace, i.e. anywhere 2000 or more feet above the ground.

I first become enchanted with bi-planes when I saw the movie "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines". Then I read Richard Bach's and Rinker Buck's wonderful books about flying bi-planes and I, from that moment on, wanted a bi-plane ride even more than a ride in an F-16. (I've been fortunate enough to have ridden AWACS aircraft in France and in England. But after an open cockpit bi-plane ride I have to say Pfffffufff to an AWACS aircraft ride.)

Today was the day and I have to admit I had been a little nervous all week thinking about what could go wrong. That was until I met Mike Gerred. The guy radiated confidence that was incredibly contagious and I was ready to get on with the flight. Mike asked me where I wanted to fly to and the place I suggested was too far away. He suggested that we fly out over the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace, MD where the big river empties into the Chesapeake Bay. I said, "That sounds good to me."

With that agreed upon, Mike's assistant, a young WVU student on summer break filled me in on all the passenger rules that pertained and helped me into the front seat of the big yellow Stearman and affixed the harness that held me snugly in the front open cockpit. Mike then climbed in and we were off, rolling across the grassy runway that is used by some of the planes at the airport, especially Mike's bi-plane. We taxied down to the takeoff roll initiation point, turned and headed into the wind and with a roar the 220 horsepower seven cylinder radial engine and big wooden propeller sent us down the long grass runway and, I swear to all that's holy, it seemed like it only took us 100 feet of runway to get airborne. It took, in retrospect, probably 300 or 400 hundred feet but still an amazing experience.

Once airborne, it felt like there was no way this double winged monster could let us down, short of complete engine failure and as we climbed to what seemed like an altitude of 2000 feet and sailed above a lush green countryside I knew that, for me, this was the ultimate way to travel from one place to another. I now knew what it was like for Richard Bach and the Amis in the Lafayette Escadrille of WWI to push through the skies in a wonderful open cockpit bi-plane with the wind whipping past their ears and the feeling that if you had a big enough gas tank, you'd never come down from the skies except to eat and a very few other things.

The big yellow Stearman that Mike Gerred was flying, as he sat about eight feet behind me felt so solid that I never felt any yaw sensation through out the entire flight. At one point, Mike jiggled the stick to ask if I wanted to fly the bright yellow bird and I took control of her for about 5 minutes as while we were over the Susquehanna River. Wow; here I was at the stick of an Open Cockpit Bi-Plane! I felt like a kid at Christmas.

All too soon Mike took the controls back from me and we headed home.

During the 30 minute ride, Mike made sure that he did plenty of steep bank maneuvers along with some roller coaster pitch up and pitch down maneuvers. I could have spent all day up in that big yellow Stearman just gamboling about the sun drenched sky. I had, before I met Mike in person asked him over the phone if he could do some barrel rolls and maybe a vertical loop during our flight. Sadly he had to tell me that aerobatic maneuvers such as I was describing required that I have a parachute during the ride as well as parachute training. Still the 30 minute ride in the big Stearman was a dream come true. It beat the heck out of riding on the back of Dick Stover's Triumph motorcycle back in 1958 and it beat the hack out of riding in a speedboat at 40 mph off Conneaut, Ohio in 1955, both terrific experiences, but not open cockpit bi-plane rides.

While Mike and his assistant were doing preflight I walked by a pilot who had just flown his single engine Cessna in from Delaware about 30 minutes earlier and he smiled at me and said, " I really envy you going up in that bi-plane with Mike." His implication was real clear and my bi-plane ride today fulfilled all it's promise and then some.

Take care. :-


Thrills abide on hot-air ride

Stunt-flying balloon pilot savors fun of introducing first-time passengers to skies

The Baltimore Sun July 22, 2007 | By Cassandra A. Fortin |  Special to the Sun

Hot-air balloon pilot Michael Gerred often witnesses the anxiety of first-time passengers. The 51-year-old Bel Air resident understands the nerves. But for him, the basic balloon ride is a simple pleasure. What's difficult, even nerve-wracking, is maneuvering a balloon close enough to grab an envelope resting on a pole sticking up 20 feet from the ground.

"It gets the adrenaline going," Gerred said of the stunt, called the "convergent navigation task exercise." "It's a great feeling to know that what you've done worked, when it could have just as easily failed." Gerred's charter ride business - Harford-based Light Flight Balloons Inc. - is the main aspect of his career as a balloon pilot. But during the past 27 years, he has piloted hundreds of flights in races and stunt-flying competitions as well, becoming a well-known name in balloon-flying circles. For the past three years, Gerred has performed the envelope stunt at the Flying Circus Air Show in Bealeton, Va. "Some people come within arm's length of doing it, but Mike is the only one who has actually done it at our festival," said John King, president of the event. "And the fact that he's done it three years in a row is just amazing."

For about five years, Gerred took part in competitions all over the region. By his reckoning, he has won 14 races, including at the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning where he competed against about 115 other balloons, and has placed in the top three in 25 other races, he said. But for all competitive flying Gerred has done, he still relishes taking paying customers up to experience balloon flight for the first time. "There's no place like home," Gerred said on a recent evening as he headed skyward from a field near Bel Air with four passengers. Hot-air ballooning is more of an art form than a science, Gerred said. "You have to use the wind to your advantage to get the balloon to go where you would like it to go," he said.

Gerred's passion for aviation began when he started flying at age 15. He grew up near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, where his father worked. When Gerred wasn't flying, he was building model airplanes. In 1974, at age 18, he joined the Naval Air Reserve. After one year of active duty, he went back to the reserves. He took a job at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital as a mental health worker from 1976 to 1980 while working on a biology degree from what was then Towson State University. During that time, he fed his fascination with aviation by purchasing an airplane, a 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ.

One day in 1980, Gerred struck up a conversation with a balloon pilot about that type of flying. All it took was one flight in the balloon for Gerred, who had never seen one before. He began taking balloon-flying lessons and in 1984 purchased his first hot-air balloon for $10,000. He recently placed an order for his 14th, he said. Despite its long tradition and reputation for beauty, the sport of ballooning has suffered in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, which led to surging liability insurance costs and tight restrictions on private aviation of all types.

Aerostar International Inc., a major manufacturer in the industry, made about 100 balloons a year in the late 1990s. But the Sioux Falls, S.D., company manufactured only 15 last year, said Martin Harms, product manager. The company, a subsidiary of Raven Industries Inc., known as a pioneer in the sport, is moving to get out of that product line altogether, he said. The cost alone could be enough of a barrier to learning the sport. A balloon can cost from $15,000 to $100,000. But those who are active in the sport are a fervent bunch. The Balloon Federation of America comprises more than 3,500 members who are hot-air and gas balloon pilots and crew, said Becky Wigeland, curator at the National Balloon Museum in Indianola, Iowa. "In Iowa, there are some businesses that are in their third generation of balloon pilots," said Wigeland.

In a horse pasture near Pylesville on a recent evening, Gerred prepared to take a group of four people on a charter ride. Among the passengers were Cynthia and Jason Simon, Forest Hill residents who were looking for an unusual way to mark their 15th wedding anniversary. To get started, Gerred and Joe Young, a crew member who also is a balloon pilot, attached the balloon to a large wicker basket lying on its side. They spread out the balloon - referred to as an envelope - and turned on a large inflator fan that partially filled the envelope with cold air. Using a propane burner, they shot bursts of hot air into the balloon. As the hot air filled the balloon they slowly pulled it to a standing position. The passengers climbed into the basket with Gerred. Young unhooked the balloon - 75 feet tall and 60 feet wide and named the Carousel - and watched as it headed skyward.

Young, a crew member for Gerred since 1996, put the equipment into a van and started to follow the balloon.

"Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, you don't decide where you are going to go - you are at the wind's mercy," Young said as he gave chase to the balloon. The biggest challenge is finding a place to land, said Young, who started flying for Gerred in 2003. "When you leave the ground, you have to be thinking, `In an hour's time where will I land?'" Young said.

Gerred makes about 175 charter flights a year. But in all his years of flying, only two local land owners have denied him permission to land. Cooperation of the landowners is the most important part of the business, Gerred said. So once on the ground, he ends every trip with a champagne toast that includes the landowner, the passengers and crew. The goodwill gesture is part of a tradition that began more than 200 years ago when the first balloons landed in France, he said. "The farmers were scared when they saw the balloons. They would come running out of their barns with pitchforks because they thought the passengers and crew were demons," Gerred said. The balloon pilots brought along French champagne to prove they were from France.


The Baltimore Sun June 06, 1993 | By JoAnne C. Broadwater | Contributing Writer

It was almost dark in the fallow cornfield where pilot Michael Gerred had landed his hot-air balloon after taking two first-time passengers on a one-hour ride above the rolling countryside of north Harford County. The balloon had been deflated and Mr. Gerred fired up the burners in the basket, illuminating the night as he lifted his glass and offered the traditional champagne toast of a balloonist:

"The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warmth. You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth. May your skies always be blue, your winds fair and your landings soft."

Just a few hours earlier, the passengers and a crowd of friends and relatives had gathered in a Forest Hill field to watch Mr. Gerred, owner of Light Flight Hot Air Balloons of Bel Air, and his ground crew chief, Jonathan Anderson, inflate the enormous balloon. They stretched out the fabric of the vividly colored balloon on the ground after attaching it with stainless steel cables to the basket, which was laid on its side. Mr. Gerred then turned on a gas-powered inflator fan and 1,200 yards of vertically striped red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple fabric began to swell with air and take shape. Twenty minutes later, a six-story balloon towered over the barley field.

"It's beautiful," said Selene MacGillivary, a 22-year-old nursing student at Harford Community College. Her boyfriend, David Gorrell -- a 23-year-old accounting major who graduated recently from the University of Baltimore -- planned the balloon ride as a surprise for her. Mr. Gorrell requested that the balloon be launched from a field on the 194-acre Harford County farm owned by his parents, Sandy and Wilson Gorrell. "He's just so romantic," Miss MacGillivary said. "I never know what to expect." Minutes later, the two climbed into the basket, which is 5 by 4 1/2 feet and can carry five people. The burners roared, heating the air inside the balloon. The couple was lifted into the sky as the balloon began to drift north with the wind. Their hot-air balloon adventure had begun.

For those left on the ground, a different sort of adventure was getting under way. Their job was to track the balloon to its destination in a "chase" vehicle, assist with the landing, help the balloon travelers celebrate and provide transportation ho

Sounds easy enough. How difficult can it be to track a 70-foot-tall balloon with a diameter of 60 feet? Mr. Anderson, the ground crew chief, quickly packed up the chase van and set off after the balloon. Within minutes, it disappeared, hidden by a forest. Mr. Anderson kept driving, choosing roads based on experience and the direction of the wind." He flies 10 miles, I drive 30," Mr. Anderson said.

Excited observers often stopped the chase van, which is marked with the balloon company's name, keeping the crew informed of the balloon's whereabouts. "People always ask, 'How can you lose a balloon? It's so big,' " Mr. Anderson said. "But ideal flights are at treetop level or below. You can grab leaves as souvenirs. How many people have a leaf from the top of a tree? When the pilot goes low and the trees are high or if he goes deep in a valley, you can't see him." Radio communications between the pilot and ground crew are minimal, but midway during this trip, the pilot reported: "Be advised we have a wedding proposal and an acceptance."

The balloon was floating at an altitude of 700 feet when Mr. Gorrell popped the question and placed a diamond engagement ring on Miss MacGillivary's finger. He had planned for the moment since November, when he scheduled the flight with Mr. Gerred. "I was so happy I could've jumped up and down, but I didn't want to jump too high," said Miss MacGillivary, who wanted to keep the words that they exchanged private. "He was the perfect romantic gentleman. And the balloon ride was breathtaking. It was the best experience I've ever had in my life. I don't think anything could ever top this day."

Hot-air balloon passengers often use the flight to honor a special occasion -- a birthday, a wedding anniversary, a graduation, a marriage proposal or even a wedding. Mr. Gerred's Light Flight Hot Air Balloons is the only company that offers charter rides in Harford County and one of only a few full-time companies in the state, he said. Flights may be scheduled for any time of year, but May, June, September, October and early November are the most popular months. Daily launches are made the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. The cost is $175 per person.

"Every time the basket lifts off, the excitement of the first-time passenger rubs off a little bit," Mr. Gerred said. "We flew last winter when there was snow on the ground. It was quiet and we counted nine deer. It was like flying in Colorado." Mr. Gerred selects a launch site from three dozen locations scattered around Harford County, based upon wind direction and speed. Decisions about whether to fly and where to launch may be made right up to flight time and many passengers must reschedule due to unsafe weather conditions. Only 65 percent of Mr. Gerred's 200 to 250 yearly charter flights are actually made on the first date scheduled. "You have to watch the weather constantly," he said. "We're very conservative. It's better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than flying and wishing you were on the ground."

"You cannot steer a balloon," he continued. "You can change direction by moving to a different altitude. But a lot of the control of the flight occurs before takeoff. The selection of the launch site is the determining factor in where you're going to be." When the flight is almost over, the pilot surveys the countryside below for a suitable field in which to land.

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