Hot Air Ballooning
August, 2007

by Flo Deems

Page 3
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25. Happy Harry's 26. Happy Harry's 1st Down 27. Happy Harry's 2nd Down 28. Balloon & Sun

Twenty-fifth Image: Happy Harry's pilot has gone low, hunting for a nice place to land that's also very close to a road, so the chase van can load it back up when they deflate it. He's found his field and is very close to landing.

Twenty-sixth Image: We are also descending, as our pilot has also found the field he wants to land in. I look back and capture Happy Harry's first touch-down.

Twenty-seventh Image: And he bounced. Seems all balloons bounce upon landing. So you hang on and flex your knees.

Twenty-eighth Image: The last balloon to launch follows, starred by the setting sun.

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29. Balloon & Sun 30. Heat Waves 31. Butterfly Deflates 32. Not a Hammock

Twenty-ninth Image: As our balloons changed positions relative to the sun, some of us tried our best to get the other balloon to totally eclipse the sun. But what with trying to get the right underexposure to make the silhouette, and the blinding brightness of the sun, this is the best of the many shots I tried.

Thirtieth Image: Looking up as the burner spurts 10-foot flames. The wavy patterns caused by the agitated heated air rising intrigued me.

Thirty-first Image: The Butterfly has landed! Our chase van driver showed up within a few minutes. The pilot shut down the burner, and the four people on that side of the basket climbed out. We four on my side remained in the basket to weight it down while the guys deflated the bag. The pilot and the chase van driver slipped the fabric into a heavy pipe bent into a tight double "S." Each one holding an end of the pipe, they ran down the length of the bag to squeeze out most of the air. When they got to the other end, we could climb out of the basket.

Thirty-second Image: Before I climbed out, I shot this photo. The fabric part that looks like it might be a hammock is the flap that hangs down from one side of the bottom opening of the bag.

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33. Stuffing It 34. Will It All Fit?

Thirty-third Image: Many hands make quick work of stuffing the heavy and reluctant fabric back into its big bag. The ballon itself weighs 350 pounds! We were shocked at how heavy it is. Our pilot is the man on the right. His assistant is next to him.

Thirty-fourth Image: After the last bit had been piled on top of the bag, we all had to sit on it to squash out the remaining air. It felt funny sitting on a slowly deflating cushion. The van driver is holding the end of the balloon at right.

But it all did finally fit. They zippered the top of the bag and then tied it tightly together. Then the van driver backed the van up to the bag. Three guys lifted it into the van's trailer, with difficulty. The driver got in and rolled it forward. Then he had to back up to the basket. After the burner was dismantled and tucked into the basket, the three guys again lifted the front end of the basket into the trailor and then they all shoved it inside.

It's a lot of heavy work, ballooning. A crew usually only flies once in a day. Either early morning or early evening. They don't fly during the day as they don't want to get caught in a thermal and get carried too high.

To pilot a balloon requires a federal license. To get the license requires lots of training and then having to put in a specified amount of flying time. Similar to getting an airplane pilot's license, I presume.

I'd love to be able to take quite a few balloon flights. But being a passenger costs more money than I'd want to spend on a regular basis. The pilot told us that the amount of propane we burned in our hour's flight would heat an average-sized home for a whole season! So ballooning isn't exactly a "green" activity.

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