Chasing Balloons by Kathleen Darrell
Today I got to do something I have never done before. I was invited to join a chase crew for a hot air balloon team. This is the first time I have seen the process from beginning to end in real life. This is what happened. My day started by getting out of bed at 5:00 a.m..
Burners Once we arrived at the launch site, one of the first things we did was get the basket – gondola – out of the trailer to get it ready for the burners.
Then we laid out the balloon – envelope – so that it could easily be attach to the gondola.
Pilot Crew Chief Sometimes figuring out all the different ropes and lines can be difficult. It’s a good thing there are experienced people on the crew. It could be very dangerous if things are not attached correctly.
Fan The next thing on the list is to start blowing up the balloon with a big fan. This is done so that some of the other parts of the envelope can be attached.
With the fan starting to blow up the envelope, it is easier to attach the parachute to the top of the balloon.
This is the parachute Have you ever seen what the inside of a hot air balloon looks like? Well, here it is.
After the balloon is almost blown up on the ground, the pilot starts heating the cold air inside of it to start lifting the balloon into the air so that the gondola can stand up straight.
This balloon is about 150 ft. tall and weighs about 350 to 400 pounds. WOW!!!!
After the balloon takes off it’s pretty tempting to stand there and watch it fly but there’s no time for that. We have to get any equipment that’s still out put away and start the chase.
Since this was my first experience being on a chase crew, my main job was to keep an eye on where the balloon was flying. This can sometimes be difficult since the balloon can be hidden by trees or other balloons.
Although the crew chief is in charge, he is the one driving the “pick up” truck so he can’t watch for the balloon. We may have a hard time finding the balloon and pilot if I don’t do my job.
Once we figure out about where we think the balloon will land, we park the truck and wait for it to come down and meet the ground.
It takes a lot of people on the crew to keep the balloon from going out of control when it does finally come back down to earth.
After landing, everything we did to get the balloon ready for take off is done in reverse. Packing the balloon correctly makes it that much easier to get it out to fly again.
There is a kind of unwritten rule in ballooning. If another balloon lands near where you are, everyone around, no matter whose crew you are on, helps bring it down.