Saturday morning dawned with the promise of a beautiful day of sunshine and adventure,at a quarter to six eight intrepid flight aspirants gathered at a central location in the city to await the arrival of our aircraft and pilot. The craft soon arrived on a large trailor behind an equally large 4 wheel drive vehicle. After introductions and a head count to ensure we were all there,the Pilot then proceeded to fill a white balloon,slightly larger than a normal party balloon, with gas and released it into the dark night sky. This white balloon contained a red light which was easily visible in the night sky.For approximately twenty minutes, the Pilot and driver visually observed the flight pattern of the balloon, the purpose of this exercise soon became clear.
A hot air balloon ,once launched,is at the mercy of the winds and can only follow the way the winds blow, the exercise of the small balloon will dictate the launch site and possible landing site of the larger Hot air ballon with its entourage of passengers on board.There are approximately 14 launch sites around the city environments and approximately the same for landing sites,that have been pre ordained from years of the Pilots experience of the wind patterns for our area.
Having decided the launch site and the potential landing site,we climbed aboard the 4 wheel drive vehicle and headed off to the the launch site approximately ten miles outside the city limits.
Once at the launch site we unloaded the wicker basket from the trailor and laid out the envelope that fills the balloon with gas,the envelope is much like a funnel.The basket can only hold 9 persons,the Pilot and gas bottles and 8 passengers.
At this stage the Pilot then released another balloon, this time it was black with a white light inside, this exercise was to determine the level of cloud cover,with sunrise appearing on the horizon cloud cover could be seen hovering overhead, the balloon quickly disappeared from sight indicating the cloud cover was low.The Pilot decided to wait half an hour to see if the cover would pass, the day before was a beautiful cloudless sky and today was forecast the same.
To fill in time we were then given our inflight instructions, first rule was to not leave the basket at any time, no smoking on board,no inflight refreshments provided, no toilet on board,there are no seats so there are no lifejackets underneath, there are no overhead compartments so dont expect a gas mask to fall in case of emergency,upon landing we were informed to adopt the half crouch position and take hold of the two safety straps before us.
By this time the sun had now appeared over the horizon and showed low cloud cover giving no sign of abating, after a few more minutes the Pilot professionally erred on the side of safety and decided to abort the mission.
We packed the basket back onto the trailor and headed back to our meeting site and our cars to return home to bed.At least we had an idea of what to expect on our next future Hot air Balloon flight adventure.
By the time we climbed back into bed the bloody sky was cloud clear.
A great experience all the same with a great professional Pilot.