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Parrot down: Pegleg Pete touches down on Gungahlin Drive

It’s no wonder that a parrot with a wooden leg has difficulties with making elegant landings and sure enough Pegleg Pete made an inelegant landing on Gungahlin Drive Expressway on Monday Morning, Canberra Day.

Pegleg Pete, the half-pirate/half pirate’s parrot hot air balloon from Champaign, Illinois, is perhaps the most popular of the balloons in town for the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.

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Shannon Bevan and partner Damon Reardon were at the Spectacular’s launch site before dawn on Monday and made a special point, Brown recalled on Tuesday, of watching the fabulous Pete being inflated and then lifting off into the dawn light.

‘‘But after watching Pegleg Pete’s inflation and departure from the Spectacular on Monday, Damon and I were driving home towards Belconnen on the GDE at about a quarter past eight.  We were forced to stop suddenly as Pegleg Pete decided to land!’’ Brown said.

It was as if Pete had been quietly following them. The last they’d seen of him after his lift off, he’d been gliding gently over the National Library of Australia.


They didn’t see him again while they were driving home until they rounded a bend of the GDE and there he was, as we can see in the pictures taken by the startled couple, inelegantly blocking the highway.

‘‘Damon quickly pulled the car over and ran over to help the balloon team as the basket [with three people in it] was struggling to be lifted over the railing. Once the basket was safely on the road he assisted the balloon team in moving Pegleg Pete to a safe (and large enough) space on the GDE to deflate him and pack him away.’’

It all happened very quickly and everyone involved ‘‘was really calm and efficient, with no one in a frenzy’’. An escort car had followed the brightly-plumaged balloon’s progress, and someone from the car had directed traffic in the ‘‘under five minutes’’ the balloon was blocking the GDE.

Pete’s feathers were ruffled by Monday’s incident but organisers of the Spectacular confirm he was aloft again on Tuesday, the sun glinting on his highly-polished wooden leg.