Ease of recovery should never take precedence over getting the balloon down without harm to passengers or people and property on the ground, damage to the balloon, or disruption to the environment. Recovery is really a chase crew term, because the pilot has always had possession of the balloon. It is the ground crew that had the balloon fly away and now wants to recover it. For some, perhaps the perfect recovery is when the balloon makes a return flight and lands at the launch site, allowing the crew to wait for it to come back.

Most pilots consider the perfect landing site one that allows an easy recovery. However, as pointed out in the chapter on landings, recovery is one of the least important elements of the landing.

The easiest recovery is when the balloon can be reached by public roads and goes directly from the landing site into the chase vehicle without unusual conversation, dismantling, carrying, or packing. If there is no wind, the balloon may be moved to the chase vehicle while it is still inflated. Just be sure to stay clear of powerlines.

Recovery from difficult terrain (no roads) or a difficult landing site (a tree, for example) are problems that are best dealt with by a strong and enthusiastic crew. Some planning can alleviate problems with recovery from difficult places.

If you have to carry the balloon a long distance, the first step in the recovery process is to break down the balloon into small pieces. Carrying many separate components (basket, heater system, and envelope, for instance) may be much easier than trying to move the entire balloon in only one or two pieces. If your crew is very small, one pilot and one passenger, for example, move the envelope in its bag by rolling it like a giant snowball. The basket may be slid on its own skids rather than being lifted completely off the ground. With a four-member crew, any AX8 or smaller balloon can be moved by having one person on the corner of each major component.

Recovery from snow requires some special equipment. How do you carry an envelope when you are waist deep in snow? A toboggan or large garbage can lid can be a good cargo sled.

Be creative and do not cause harm. If you are flying at an event and land in a difficult location, do not be embarrassed to ask other pilots and crews to help. Most balloonists are glad to help a fellow pilot.


Pack-up means getting the balloon into condition for transport and storage, and, in some ways, prepared for the next flight. Part of the pack-up procedure may be considered preflight preparations for the next flight.

The sooner the balloon is packed up, the better. Once you have determined that the passengers are cared for, you should, with the help of crew (and passengers, if appropriate), prepare the envelope and stuff it in its bag. The fabric will degrade lying in the sun.

Making sure the balloon is properly prepared for storage is important since you may not necessarily know when your next flight will be. (Particularly in winter, when inclement weather may prevent flying.) If, for example, the balloon gets wet, you must make sure you dry it thoroughly before packing it for storage, whether it is for a week or a month.

Check the temperature indicators, commonly called tell-tales located at the top of the envelope. If the temperature has exceeded manufacturer limitations, the fabric may require testing before the next flight. This is the first step in the preflight inspection for your next flight.

Determine that control lines are clear of fabric and fasten the ends at the mouth so they will not be lost inside the envelope, or tangled. By doing this, they will be readily available for layout the next flight.

If the deflation panel is sealed prior to stuffing the envelope into its bag, some time is saved at the launch site for the next flight. If the top hook-and-loop fastenings of the rip panel are mated at the landing site, dirt, debris, and water contamination are less likely to occur. In addition, the fastening becomes tightly mated while under the weight of the envelope during transportation. This saves unnecessary handling of the closure, which can result in premature fabric failure in that area. With a parachute top, even if the locating hook-and-pile tabs are not mated, the top of the balloon receives much less handling if the parachute is pulled into place during deflation or before pack-up.

If you pack your balloon the same way each time, you will not have to figure out how to orient the envelope in the predawn hours as you prepare for a flight. Packing your balloon and stowing it in the chase vehicle is the hardest work of a balloon flight, but remember that it is also part of preparing for your next flight.

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