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 necessary.

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 possible.

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.

 ŠAvStop Online Magazine                                                                                                                                                       Contact Us              Return To Books

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator