Ground crews prepare their balloons for launch at the Walla Walla, WA, Balloon Stampede.
Pilots and ground crew take their jobs very seriously anytime they fly – especially at a balloon rally.
The crews also have a lot of fun and enjoy what they’re doing – flying beautiful hot air balloons!
Ballooning is safe and enjoyable if you pay attention to all the details of both your balloon and the greater environment around you.
There are a lot of technical details behind the beautiful colors of a balloon, and as in many sports like flying fixed wing planes, parachuting and SCUBA diving – you can’t neglect your equipment or your planning.
As the saying goes…take good care of your equipment and it will take care of you.
Balloon rallys and stampedes involve spirited competition between pilots and ground crews as well.
There are all sorts of events and “tasks” that are possible for the pilots to compete in at a balloon rally.
One such competition is maneuvering over a set course – which given unpredictable winds, can certainly be challenging.
There are various goals, targets and scoring areas during a balloon competition.
There are also time and distance limits that are devised by the rally organizers when planning the competition.
You might drop markers – like small bags of flour – over turnpoints or targets on the ground, that are then scored for accuracy.
The “marker” may also be a small sandbag with a streamer attached for visibility.
Observers on the ground measure the distance the marker is away from the target for a score, which contributes to the overall score for the competition.
“Hare and hound” balloon racing is also very popular at rallys and competitions.
All balloons launch from a common area – a “hare” balloon takes off first and the rest of the balloons give chase.
The rest of the balloons are called the “hounds” and pursue the “hare” balloon across the countryside.
The “hounds” attempt to closely follow the “hare” or lead balloon, and drop the closest marker once the “hare” balloon has landed and put out a target on the ground.