During October the International Balloon Fiesta took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you ever get the chance go. There were 550 registered balloon pilots.
Our first morning at the fiesta was the morning that we were scheduled to go up in a balloon. I’d had this planned for months, done and paid for the moment we decided to go to the fiesta. We went with a company called Rainbow Ryders and there were 600 people on the waiting list and all the balloon flight for every day of the festival were booked solid.
We had to be at Balloon Fiesta Park by 5am; we were up at 3:15 and there by 4:30. There was no way we were missing this. Just FYI, if you do ever fly with Rainbow Ryders it is totally worth it to get the Ryder’s Club upgrade. They feed you and there is coffee along with a heated tent, totally worth it. We were nervous, I’ll admit but nerves weren’t enough to stop us from flying if we could.
Our flight was scheduled to take off at 7am, around dawn, but the wind was not in our favor. If it is too windy the balloons cannot fly, it is not save. Finally around 7:30 we got the green flag and were able to get going. The balloon crew and chase crew were awesome people who were happy to talk and answer all of our questions. The dawn patrol did not go up the morning we did, it was too windy but the balloon of the day did fly, testing the winds for the rest of us.
Take off was interesting, as soon as the envelope (real name for the actual balloon) starts to stand up they tell you to climb into the basket and you have to climb in fast. There were 12 of us passengers and the pilot in thee balloon. Yes it was cramped but not too badly. Take off was smooth, you could barely feel it. Note: the directors on the field are called Zebras, they are pretty much air traffic control for ballooning. They all coordinate the take offs so that balloons don’t take off too close together or other dangerous situations.
The flight itself was breath taking. I’d do it again in a heart beat. So many balloons going up around us and the sky was blue with not a cloud to be seen. I was standing under the blowers and yes they are loud (as you will hear in the video) but my spot was perfect because I was able to talk to our balloon pilot.
Landing was its own animal, it was a blast but it was rough. To land the basket bounces and the ground on specially built skids and the pilot pulls the internal parachute in the balloon to release all the hot air. We loved the landing and were laughing ourselves silly.
We landed on the Indian reservation that is near Albuquerque. It took a while for our chase crew to reach us because they are required to be escorted by the reservation police and 40 balloons landed on the reservation that day. By the time they got to us we had helped the pilot to layout the envelope and get the basket on the road. We learned while waiting that all balloons are up to aviation standard and must be inspected every year or after every 100 hours of flight.
I hope that you all enjoy this video, you can hear my questions to the pilot and some amusing radio chatter. I hope that you enjoy it and that you have a great Wednesday!
Photos by KW Photography
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