Light-wind Deflation

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 Deflation

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.


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 place.

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 flight.

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.

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