Byron - Fortin Hot Air Airship

N587BF "No Deposit No Return"
Builders: Jim Byron & Marcel Fortin


Good Morning Jon;
Indeed it is Marcel Fortin's airship. It is N587BF (Date of Manufacture, Byron, Fortin, the two builders) It was originally an airship, the gondola was shaped like a rattan boat with a plywood floor, 5 tanks and a boat transom on the rear with a snow-mobile motor and an airplane prop. It was so damned heavy we started launching it from off the trailer.

I first met Marcel at the Mountaineer Balloon Festival in October,1997. He walked up to I.V. Cunningham, my mentor, and asked if he knew of a pilot who might help him fly his airship. I just happened to overhear the conversation. I.V. told him "Yeah here's Bill Scarberry who is a student that shows a lot of promise and would do you a nice job." So Marcel & I went flying and the winds were just too much to overcome so we shut the motor off and flew it like a balloon. It was a Hot Air, Airship. T3 burner. That day he showed me the smoothest contour flying I ever saw to that date.

Later on, maybe the following year we had had time to think about it and decided to keep it low to the ground and out of the prevailing winds and with my 11 year old daughter steering it, me controlling the burn and Marcel with arms folded like a proud poppa grinning from ear to ear, we returned to the field. The ONLY time we ever returned to the field. So when I landed it, he shut the motor off and not knowing, burned out the magneto so that we couldn't make another attempt, so we just went flying like a balloon again and ever since the balloon has been known as "No Deposit, No Return"! The Balloon is about a 77K size and has since flown an old Barnes basket under it that once flew across the English Channel.

When I started flying with him it had 8 hours on it and he alone is what kept me in ballooning some years ago. He knows how to make ballooning fun and keeps the work to a minimum.

Wm. G. (Bill) Scarberry, Jr.


Jim Byron (last address was West Haven, CT.) and I built the airship in 1986 and it was certificated through the Charleston, WV FSDO to fly within a 30 mile radius of Hurricane, West Virginia for the test phase. The N number represents May 1987 (Date of Certificate) Byron Fortin (Builders)   N587BF. Jim and I built the ship in Shelton, CT. when I was working in the area. Jim designed the ship based on a Raven airship model. It has ten gores and is 110 feet in length and 70 feet tall. Fabric is Cameron Hyperlast circa 1987. We built the ship over the summer and fall of 1986 at Jim Byron's business. His business made mylar bags, specialty clothing and had sewing machines that could handle webbing, material and leather. We used a double lock stitch with interlocking folded fell seam. Load tapes are webbing with a four point attachment system for the gondola. The ship has 180 total hours to date. I am a hobbyist and fly only 10 -15 hours a year, usually fun events in WV. and VA.

I have mated a Balloon Works 4.9 basket with the system and have flown the equipment as a special shape. The gondola that I wove had 5 tanks, a boat steering rigging to move the transom on which a 50 hp Cuyuna engine with a 4 bladed prop was mounted in the rear of the basket. The idea was to angle the engine in such a way as to push the ship in the direction that I wanted to go and the ship would align itself. This worked pretty well. I was told that from the ground, it looked like we knew what we were doing. All I can say is that from the air, the area required to make a turn was so big that I couldn't tell what, if any, progress I made in controlling the ship. As Bill [Scarberry] stated, he was with me when we actually did get back to the launch area. The ship's name is 'No Deposit No Return'. The name was christened by a friend that had commented that we had tried several times to get back to where we started from without any luck. The name stuck. Most people that see me fly, adults & children, believe it to be a fish of some sort and call the ship 'Guppy' or the 'Fish'.  The original gondola was way too cumbersome and required a rather large crew. It didn't take me too long to dismantle the original gondola and salvage parts for a cloudhopper project that I have yet to finish. My son and I mounted the engine on a lawn tractor and had fun playing with a tractor that would go 60 mph.

Since I fly primarily in the mountains of West Virginia, it has always amazed me that the ship always aligns itself with the valleys as I contour fly. The ship trims itself and I land with the nose leading the way. The ship flies wonderfully. As I change altitude the ship will spin and eventually points the way the wind is going. Pilots in events watch me to see which way the winds are blowing at different altitudes. I work like a wind sock and rotate with the prevailing winds. 

Marcel J. Fortin