A hot air balloon always attracts the eye, and here our store’s colorful “Miss Electricraft” balloon climbs into the sky.
Jim pilots “Miss Electricraft” on a picture perfect day in the Seattle area to the desired cruising altitude.
The wind is everything in hot air ballooning, as the balloon’s pilot can only “steer” the balloon by either climbing or descending to find winds blowing from a different direction.
As the balloon climbs or descends, it passes through different wind speeds and directions at various altitudes.
The warming effect of sunshine on the ground produces thermals of rising warm air which adds a different element for the balloon’s pilot to deal with.
An experienced hot air balloon pilot also uses his or her “gut feel” to understand what the winds are doing, based on the altitude and prevailing weather conditions.
The ground crew has a demanding job to follow the balloon in the van and not lose sight of it, and all the time look for roads that follow the balloon’s path through the sky.
Where is the balloon going and is it preparing to land or just fly along the treetops?
Is there a road going in that direction we can use to follow the balloon? (I’m sure that hot air balloon pilots and ground crews use GPS trackers and cell phones to communicate with each other these days.)
Landing is the hardest part of hot air ballooning, and the pilot looks for a nice open area to put the balloon down in.
Looking for a nice open field without fences or obstacles is easier said than done.
The pilot has to establish a ground track and look down range to see where the balloon is going and look for opportunities ahead to land.
Once the pilot sees a landing zone ahead, he or she gently opens the balloon’s vent to release hot air and get ready to land.
If the wind is strong at the surface, it becomes challenging to get the balloon lined up and ready to land.
These cows don’t seem to be concerned that a hot air balloon intends to land in their field, but I’m sure the farmer might have been!
One of the cardinal rules of hot air ballooning is…don’t land on a cow!
Any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing…and these cows didn’t seem to mind sharing their field with a balloon for a short while.
The cows even take a closer look to see if the balloon’s envelope is tasty!
This landing just missed the rocks…and the ground crew’s challenge now is to pack it all up and get it out of the field and into the van.
Once everything is cleaned up and put back into the van, the balloon is returned to the warehouse and we make plans to fly another day.