The light-wind deflation is the easiest of all. In a
wind of 2 to 5 knots, the pilot need only pull the
deflation line, tip the basket over, and watch the
envelope slowly lay itself on the ground. The deflation
port will stay on top most of the time and the crew
holds the port open only at the very end of the deflation
to let the last of the air out.
High-wind deflations become a part of the landing.
As the balloon approaches the ground, you should
prepare to activate the deflation vent at the appropriate
time and the wind will do the rest. The next thing you
know, the balloon is on its side, and the air is all out
of the envelope. Some manufacturers have restrictions
regarding activating the deflation port above ground,
so you must be familiar with manufacturer instructions.
PREPARING FOR PACK-UP
The last element of the deflation is getting the envelope
ready to be packed into its bag. Before all the air is
out of the envelope, and while you can still look into
the deflation port and see the deflation panel and
control line, pull the panel back into place near the
port, and some of the control line back up into the top
part of the envelope.
If the balloon has a parachute top, placing the deflation
panel in its correct position at deflation requires less
handling of the envelope fabric. This makes preparing
the top for the next launch much easier.
Hook-and-look fastened on panels should be
reinstalled after deflation. There are several good
reasons for putting the top in at the landing site rather
than waiting until the next launch. By mating the
fastener right away, you prevent contamination from
sticks, leaves, and dirt. If you inflate next from wet
grass, the fastener will already be sealed and will not become contaminated with moisture. Hook-andloop
fasteners mated wet have less strength than
fasteners mated dry, even if subsequent wetting
occurs. Hook-and-loop fasteners mate stronger with
pressure and motion. While the envelope is in its
bag, with the top of the envelope at the bottom of the
bag, there are 200 pounds of fabric squeezing the
fastener together while the motion of the chase vehicle
vibrates the fastener into a strong connection.
After pulling the top open, there is usually a pile of
control line(s) at the bottom of the envelope or in the
basket. Tie off each control line separately at the
mouth of the envelope to eliminate tangles during
pack-up. Some balloons have as many as four control
lines (deflation, vent, and two rotators) hanging out
of the mouth.
Another operation that saves time at the next launch
is to pull some of the deflation line back up to the top
of the envelope so that, if the line is inadvertently
pulled during layout, the top will not be pulled out of
Always remove direct-reading pyrometers from the
envelope before completing deflation to prevent
damage to the fabric or instrument. Electric and
remote-reading pyrometer wires should be
disconnected from their gauge in the basket to prevent
wire breakage and connector damage. Remotereading
pyrometers using a transmitter/sensor do not
have the long wire to contend with, but the transmitter
and the fabric around it may need some protection.
Envelopes with control-line pulleys are subject to
damage by fabric becoming jammed into the pulley.
During deflation, the lines should be pulled clear to
the top of the envelope to prevent damage during packup
and layout. Envelopes with steel cable control
lines require extra care as sliding the cable through a
tightly bunched bundle of fabric causes additional
damage to the fabric.
Carefully squeeze the air out of the envelope prior to
packing it in its bag to avoid unnecessary handling.
The air should be evacuated through the deflation
panel or mouth and not through the fabric. A nonporous
envelope allows air to escape only through needle
holes in the seams. If pressure is applied, enlargement
of the holes may occur.
Careful deflation and preparing the envelope properly
helps to provide a positive beginning for the next
It would be nice to have biodegradable balloons that
could just be left in the field to dissolve and disappear
in the morning dew, to fertilize the soil! Then you
would not have to figure out how to get the balloon
back in the van or pickup, or back onto the trailer.
You would avoid the hardest part of ballooning, the
recovery and pack-up.