Radio communication between the balloon and the
chase vehicle is fairly common. If you use radios,
obey all Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) regulations. Use call signs, proper language, and
keep transmissions short. Many balloonists prefer not
to use radios to communicate with their chase vehicle
because it can be distracting to both pilot and chase
vehicle driver. In any case, it is a good idea to agree on
a common phone number before a flight in case the chase
crew loses the balloon.
The crew is the pilot’s ground representative to
spectators, passengers, police, landowners, press, and
anyone else who may have occasion to be interested in
the balloon. The crew should always act responsibly
because their actions reflect directly upon the pilot.
The pilot is responsible for all aspects of the flight.
Crewmembers should follow instructions even if they
have learned different techniques from other pilots. Do
not assume anything, because different pilots may expect
different things from their crew. Before the noise and
momentum make discussion difficult, you should give
the crew briefing and any requirements discussed
with the pilot before inflation.
While it is desirable to have the chase crew present
at the landing, the crew should remember the balloon
pilot could land without assistance. The crew should
not do anything dangerous or inconsiderate in an
attempt to assist in the landing.
To begin with, a chase crew needs a reliable and
suitable vehicle. Suggested items to carry might be
a clock or wristwatch, maps and aeronautical charts,
compass, binoculars, communications radio, and
gifts for local people and landowners that may
volunteer to help.
The chase crew may be one person or many. When
offering seats in the chase vehicle, do not forget to
leave room for all occupants of the balloon for the
Two people in the chase vehicle is best for a typical
hot air balloon chase this allows for one to drive
and one to watch. Chasing balloons is more watching
and less driving, but it is nice to be able to separate
the two jobs. Most of the time, the chase crew is
parked alongside the road watching the balloon drift
slowly toward them.
The chase usually starts when the balloon leaves the
ground, but there are preparations that must be made
before inflation. For instance, the chase crew must
have the keys to the chase vehicle. The last place the
car keys should be is in the pocket of the balloon
pilot, who is already in the air.
Another prelaunch consideration should be to get the
chase vehicle clear of the launch site and ready to
depart. Sometimes, the chase vehicle becomes
trapped at the launch site because of spectators and
vehicles blocking their way. At launch time, balloon
watchers usually become enchanted and completely
mesmerized by the beautiful balloons, oblivious to
the efforts of the chase crews to get out and start
chasing. In such situations, it is prudent to get the
chase vehicle in position for the chase before the
Another consideration is for the pilot to remind the
chase crew of the conditions and purposes of the
flight. The crew does a better job if they know the
approximate direction of the flight, maximum time
in the air, possibility of multiple flights, known
terrain hazards, and preferred landing sites. If the
pilot forgets to give an appropriate briefing to the
chase crew, the crew should ask. The best time to
cover this briefing is before the inflation begins, as
a checklist item.