Ballooning is a dear special interest because we’ve had fun with so many people we know. We’ve had and shared wonderful experiences with friends, family and strangers in balloons. . I had an English teacher once, that English teacher who opened the world through literature. She was rumored to be writing a book, so one day I asked her. She said “I think everyone has at least one book in them.” Mine would be centered around ballooning. Honestly, I have started it, but I need to get disciplined to finish it.
I haven’t actually had the chance to be in a balloon been for in years, but here are some highlights from when I was ballooning regularly.
I took all of the photos that I’m not in. The others were probably taken by who ever was standing around with whatever camera I was using at the time.
There are all kinds of balloons and all kids of ballooning, from festivals and joy rides to serious international level competition and record breaking flights.
Sometimes competition (and sport) pilots will inflate a pibal to get an idea what winds aloft are doing. At bigger festivals like Albuquerque Fiesta, there will be a Dawn Patrol in the early morning where pilots with night time navigation certification will go up in the dark, during the pilot briefing so pilots and crew can see what the wind is doing as they are being prepared for the coming flight. Flying in the Dawn Patrol is something I still want to do. It’s a small number of balloons, and a lot of people want to be in them.
For US Hot Air Balloon Nationals in Anderson SC, I was an “observer”. It’s somewhat like a referee. We record different details of the flight for the assigned pilot. On this dat I was working the target sight. The white fabric is a target, or the “X”. In this photo we’re finishing up paperwork after the target was closed and waiting for a ride.
I also served an official observer capacity for World Record flights and attempts. The photo below is of the Hot Air Balloon (HAB) Savannah Six when the pilot Andy Cayton made a duration record. Of course, all you can see is the burner with a little bit of the skirt and some low clouds.
The flight was just shy of 24 hours long. After you drive around chasing snow hares through the country and retrieving discarded tanks for that long, everyone is saying of someone else “Watch (insert the name of any crew member). He doesn’t seem to be thinking straight.” And, just to be clear we weren’t actually chasing snow hares, but they were running around and showing up in our headlights. Seeing them in the quiet white snow cover was otherworldly for this southern girl. The whole experience was crazy, but a lot of fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Types of balloons include Gas balloons, hot-air balloons in standard and special shapes, Roziers (which are a combination of the two designed for distance flights) and smoke balloons each have unique histories. Balloons were used during the Civil War for reconnaissance and during the space race for research. Here is a favourite old photo of me standing beside Joe Kittinger at a ballooning safety seminar.
Normally I don’t try to pose for photos with event speakers, but this is a very special exception. You can read about Joe in The Pre-Astronauts: Manned Ballooning on the Threshold of Space If you like that, also read Race to the Stratosphere: Manned Scientific Ballooning in America. Flying from the Stratobowl will probably forever be on my list of things I’d love to do someday.
Georgia has some great balloonists and some wonderful places to go ballooning. If you are interested in local ballooning,there are many options available.
For information on ballooning organizations please go to the Balloon Federation of America or the Federation Internationale Aeronautique. For some other great books on ballooning check the links below.