One of the destinations for this vacation was Albuquerque--specifically, the 40th Annual International Balloon Fiesta. We had arranged to take a balloon ride on Friday, September 30--the day before the Fiesta started.
We met our pilot and fellow passengers on the Fiesta field before 7 am to organize for our ride. Balloons only launch during the morning hours. As the sun warms the earth during the day the warm air rises creating thermal columns of air which make it very unstable for flying during the day. In the morning and the evening, the thermal activity is minimal and the winds are the calmest.
After arriving at the launch site, the business of setting up the balloon started.
The envelope was removed from the bag and laid out in a long line. The burners are attached to the uprights, and the basket is attached to the cables on the bottom of the envelope.
The balloon was partially inflated with cold air from a gas-powered fan, before the propane burners are used for final inflation.
Here we are in the basket ready for lift off.
Other balloons were launched from the same site as our balloon with passengers like us.
There were just under 30 balloons that launched the same morning as us.
I have a fear of heights but I did not have any problems flying in a balloon. Flying in a high sided balloon basket is not like standing in a roof or a high ladder. You don't get that vertigo feeling. It is more like the ground is unfolding beneath you, and, because you are moving with the wind, you don't feel any wind blowing. The basket does not rock or sway so you can't possibly fall out.
Winds determine a balloon's direction. The pilot can steer a balloon to a limited extent by adjusting the balloon's altitude to make use of different wind speeds and directions.
We were prepared by our pilot for the three "bumps" that we would feel as the basket touched the ground.
Several of the passengers assisted with the packing up of the balloon.
And finally the balloon and basket are packed away in the trailer and we all headed back to the Fiesta park in the chase vehicle.
This was a fabulous once in a lifetime experience. If you ever get a chance to fly in a a hot air balloon, don't hesitate!