This chapter discusses postflight procedures. Included are deflation, pack-up and recovery, and propane management and fueling.


There is much more to deflating a hot air balloon than just letting the air out of the envelope. A picturebook deflation is one in which the pilot guides the balloon to the selected landing site containing no obstacles, pulls the deflation line and lays the balloon down perfectly, ready to be packed up.

Wind Conditions

Different wind conditions require different deflation procedures. A light wind allows several options. For example, the balloon while still inflated may be moved, or walked from the landing site, to a better deflation site. This should be done very carefully, with the pilot in command in the basket, in charge of the entire operation, and assistants on the ground. Walking the balloon on the ground should be done with the understanding that the wind may increase at any time and that the pilot and crew should be prepared to deal with the wind. The pilot and crew should have a brief discussion to plan the movement and alternatives if the wind comes up. The pilot should get the balloon light, so the crew does not have to lift the balloon, but merely move it sideways. This maneuver can be accomplished if the wind is calm or nearly calm, and the balloon can be moved only at a slight angle to the wind. The balloon must be moved very slowly as the average balloon has the momentum of a couple of tons. No crewmember should be directly in front of the balloon and the pilot should control the altitude with tiny, evenly-spaced burns to hold equilibrium at about 1 to 3 feet above ground level. Everyone in the crew should know in advance the intended stopping place so they can work together.

In light winds, the crew has time to inspect the proposed deflation site and remove small sticks and sharp objects that could puncture the envelope. Check bushes and weeds for anything unfriendly to the envelope. Some balloonists use a huge tarp to cover the ground and protect the envelope.

Once the site is selected, the deflation should proceed. If the balloon is equipped with a pyrometer wire, disconnect it and stow it out of the way. On most systems the deflation line must be tended and held with constant tension to keep the deflation port open.

No-wind Deflation

Deflation in no-wind situations can have some problems. Since you do not want the envelope to fall straight down and gift-wrap the heater/basket assembly, most pilots ask a crewmember to use the crown line to pull the envelope away from the basket. Unless properly instructed, the person on the top line will usually pull the envelope completely over until the deflation port is no longer at the top, and the envelope will not deflate. Oftentimes, in this situation, you or a crewmember must tackle the envelope bodily and wrestle the hot air out. This can be hard on the envelope and the crewmember.

A standup deflation with no wind should not be a lot of work. First, turn off the fuel at all tanks, open the blast valves, burn off any fuel remaining in the lines, and turn off pilot lights. Then, the top is opened and held open while you waits, watching the suspension lines. When the suspension lines start to sag and go limp, the basket should be tipped over toward the desired direction of deflation. The envelope is then gently pulled down, starting at the underside of the mouth and stopping at the equator. This allows the top of the envelope to stay on top and the hot air inside the envelope to escape naturally. The envelope is handled much less, crew expends less energy, and the envelope lies gently down.

 ŠAvStop Online Magazine                                                                                                                                                       Contact Us              Return To Books

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator