Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Launch Preparations

In the reporting sense, we are still in San Diego, but physically, we are in Albuquerque, NM and on the road to recovery.

From the first Saturday to the second Sunday in October, Albuquerque holds its Balloon Fiesta.

We left the campground on the shuttle bus at 5:30 a.m. to be at the Mass Ascension of the hot air balloons scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Either because of heavy traffic or poor traffic control--or both--the half hour drive (or hour drive on Fiesta days) took 90 minutes. The morning was overcast with little wind (an extremely important variable when it comes to launching balloons).

I begin with this photo because it shows all stages of the launch. The pilot directs the unloading of the basket and envelope bag (each of which can weigh between 200 to 500 pounds) from the trailer. The envelope bag is placed approximately 30 feet downwind of the basket; the basket should be placed about 10 feet behind the chase vehicle.

The throat crew's job is to hold the mouth of the balloon open so the fan can fill it with cold air. Each person places one foot inside the throat pulling to the outside so the bottom part of the throat is tight and flat on the ground.

When the balloon is "cold-packed" and the pilot is ready for hot inflation, he will signal to gently release the throat, move around the basket, and put weight on the back of the basket. The pilot will then fire the burners and heat the air, causing the balloon to rise.

As the balloon fills with the hot air, two locations of "anchors" are needed. One is at the crown point (right). Here the person(s) holds the line to control the rate of the balloon's rise and control the movement of the balloon on windy days.

As the balloon begins to rise, the basket is tipped into an upright position. Here crew members put their weight onto the basket to hold the balloon on the ground.

When the launch official (right) gives the signal for launch, the pilot will release the tie-off rope, which is connected to the chase vehicle. The pilot then has the crew walk the balloon away from the chase vehicle as he ascends.

The ascension of over 450 balloons took about 70 minutes and was completed in a very methodical manner.

The rest of the photos here show the early stages of the launch. They represent our views of the colors and the arrangements of these quiet giants of the air.

We felt very fortunate to be able to walk around the field among the balloons. This allowed us to hear the directions given to crew members and watch the efficient completion of the instructions.

One constant was apparent in all crews' work. There was no rush to complete the steps to launch.

It was clear that the work involved in lauching the balloons was fun, but the implementation of the fun was conducted in a serious manner.

Some of the designs were more intricate than others. We will show a picture of the whole balloon with this design tomorrow.

On the few occasions that the sun appeared from behind the clouds, it created a brilliant show of color against the cloudy background.

There seemed to be a space alien mingling with this group of balloons.

Several of the balloons seem ready for launch. Tomorrow's entry will present some of these beauties in flight.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I landed on your page randomly but loved seeing all the pictures of the hot air balloons. We went to the Reno Hot Air Balloon Races this year and it was amazing! We did get up at 4am to get down to the fields to watch what they call "Glow Patrol", the firing up of balloons in the pitch black and then those special 4 balloons assended up into the dark early morning sky. It was amazing!