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.