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
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
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