At this point, the balloon is just slightly heavier than
equilibrium and ready to launch.
If carrying passengers, now is the time to invite them
in the basket. Immediately compensate for the
additional weight with sufficient heat to regain
equilibrium. The passengers have already been
briefed on the correct landing procedure. Now is the
time to again brief them on behavior in the basket;
advise them not to touch any control lines, to take
care of their possessions, to stay well within the
confines of the basket, not to sit on the side of the
basket, and, above all, to obey the pilot in command.
At least one crewmember should remain near the
basket in case the pilot or passengers need
assistance. This is a good time to give the crew a final briefing regarding the expected distance and
length of the flight. If other balloons are launching
from the same area, ask a crewmember to step back
from the balloon to check that it is clear above.
Two or three standard burns in a row from equilibrium
usually provides a slow departure from the ground. If
there are no nearby, downwind obstacles to clear, a
slow ascent rate is preferred to test wind direction
and detect subtle wind changes. Climbing at a slow
rate is the best way to avoid running into balloons
above. Although the balloon below has the right-ofway
(due to lack of visibility above), the higher
balloon needs time to climb out of the way, if
A fast ascent rate from launch is only to avoid ground
obstacles or to pass quickly through an adverse wind,
and only when it is clear above.
It is very easy to be distracted during launch and make
an unintentional descent. Make sure all ground
business is taken care of, such as instructing the chase
crew and stowing all equipment correctly, before
leaving the ground.
Be aware of the possibility of uncontrolled lift
(oftentimes referred to as false lift), and the possibility
of an unplanned descent caused by surface wind or
an ascent from a sheltered launch site. Pay attention
to obstacles, including the chase vehicle, fences, and
particularly to powerlines. Realize where all
powerlines are and visually locate them as soon as
Some organized events have a maximum ascent and
descent rate of 200 to 300 FPM. However, in the case
of a problem, the pilot in command is ultimately
responsible and, if safety requires, may have to exceed
event-set limits. Instructions from an event director
or launch director never supersede your responsibility
as pilot in command of an aircraft.
Return flights in a balloon are fun and more rare than
they should be. If you would like to make a return
flight, your chances will increased if you start your
flight moving toward the upwind direction. If possible, when the winds are variable, fly the early part of the
flight in a direction other than the normal prevailing
direction. Then the second half of the flight can be in
the normal direction, which may take the balloon back
to the launch site.
Now, at the beginning of your flight, is the time to
learn about wind directions at different elevations and
to start planning the flight direction and landing site.