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 long strip.

Spread layout

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 fan.

Strip layout

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.

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