Removing the Balloon from the Vehicle
Plan ahead for removing and carrying the balloon
from the vehicle to the launch site to avoid
unnecessary lifting and moving.
For instance, if you carry the envelope in a bag
separate from the basket, drop off the envelope about
15 feet downwind from the basket; this requires less
carrying than if it is set down too close to the basket.
If the basket and envelope are not connected, the
separate pieces are easier to lift and each piece can
then be placed in the appropriate position, requiring
less moving and carrying.
If the balloon is disassembled for transport and
handling, it must be assembled in accordance with
the flight manual prior to layout. Make sure all fittings
and fastenings are secure.
Do not drag the envelope along the ground when
pulling the envelope out of the bag. Many envelopes
have holes and tears caused by being dragged over
sharp objects while getting the envelope out of the
bag. Lift the bag clear of the ground and carry it
unless the launch surface is perfect with no sharp
objects or dirty spots.
There are many variations to laying out a balloon
and preparing it for inflation. The manufacturer of
the balloon or the way the balloon is assembled sets
some of these inflation styles.
The launch site surface, the order in which the
balloon is assembled, and how the balloon is
removed from the chase vehicle, has a bearing on
the way the preflight layout and inspection proceeds.
There is no one best way to lay out a balloon, just as
there is no one best way to inflate a balloon. The
two most common ways to prepare the balloon for
cold inflation are to spread it out, or inflate from a
The spread layout method for inflation is the most
widely used method. By handling the envelope with
the load tapes, you can pull the fabric away from the
center until the envelope takes its normal shape while
still flat on the ground. Exercise care when sliding
the fabric across the ground to avoid causing damage.
All balloons have an even number of load tapes. By
using the number on the load tape when spreading
the envelope, you can arrange to have the envelope
in a proper position for inflation. With one
crewmember on each side of the envelope’s fabric,
start at the mouth and travel the length of the
appropriate load tape, pulling the fabric taut up to
the equator. This gets the bottom laid out flat. Be
careful to handle only the load tapes when
positioning the envelope because pulling on the
fabric could cause damage.
Check the deflation system at this time and properly
position it in accordance with the balloon flight
manual. While the envelope is filling with air, your
crew can assist this process by lifting upward on
the load tapes, allowing more cold air to pack the
envelope. This method allows the envelope to deploy
smoothly and easily, even with a small sized inflation
When inflating on pavement or from a small or
narrow launch site, many pilots prefer not to deploy
the envelope on the ground. Instead, they prefer to
pull the envelope straight out from the basket, making
sure the top gore is on top its full length, and to inflate
the envelope entirely with the fan. This may require
a larger fan, depending on the size of the balloon
and envelope material.
Once the balloon is stretched out, make sure that the
control lines (deflation, cooling, or rotating) are
correctly attached to the basket, according to the
manufacturer’s instructions. This method minimizes
handling the fabric on a rough or dirty surface. It
requires more diligence by the ground crew to make
sure it deploys correctly.