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.
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.
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.