Ross Sale here, wearing my pilot hat. Actually I'm here with my mate Peter and we're both wearing our hats. If I told you this photo was on the front page of the Wairarapa Times and that we are now famous in that area, I bet you wouldn't be surprised. It's also not surprising that I really, really love flying. Let me tell you a bit about hot air ballooning, the Bittersweet Herb and Spice Balloon
and some events we hope to be attending next year...
What a great experience it is to fly in a hot air balloon or just be present when one is being inflated. I have been a hot air balloon pilot for over 20 years and I know now that I will never tire of flying. Let me share a bit about my sport with you.
The key components of a balloon are the envelope (the balloon) and the basket. Inside the basket are the tanks which contain LPG or Liquid Propane, and are connected to the Burner by hoses. The burner has a pilot light which burns continuously so that when a valve is opened on the burner the escaping gases are ignited and the subsequent flame heats the air inside the envelope causing it to rise. Just a bit of science happening here; i.e. “hot air is lighter than cold air” so hot air rises.
A Hot Air balloon is steered by using wind direction and that changes with altitude, so, as the Balloon Pilot, you need to make a mental note of these directions and at what altitude they occur as you go up or down. A balloon needs hot air inside it to rise and to descend it needs the air to cool. So, with out going into great detail, there you have the basics. Anyone can fly a balloon, but it takes many hours to perfect and be a good pilot.
My experience started back in the US about 1987. At the time, I was a committed Hang Glider pilot and flew off the cliffs in the Catskill area of New York State; a place called Ellenville. The last hang glider I owned was a double surfaced flying wing which had rudders located on each end of the wing tips, operated from the control bar. The glider was quite heavy so for a little relief I began, along with Mary-Lee, crewing for our friends on their hot air balloon team. Much easier work. It was not long before the glider was sold and part ownership taken in the balloon. The lessons quickly followed, ground schools attended, exams sat and passed and before we knew it we had to buy a new balloon because we wore out the old one.
Balloon envelopes have a limited life span. They eventually become porous from being exposed to so much heat and the integrity of the fabric deteriorates such that they become quite unsafe to fly. An annual or 100 hour check up is required by law to keep the equivalent of a ’warrant of fitness’.
When we moved back to New Zealand our balloon came with us and a new era of flight began. We made great new friends and had nice places to fly, but soon we wore out our second balloon as well. Now we have the present balloon, affectionately know as the ‘Grey Goat’ and officially as the ‘Bittersweet Balloon’. It was built in the US by my friend Brian, who builds balloons for a living, from his own airfield in Post Mills, Vermont. It’s a great little balloon, only 57,000 cubic feet in size and compacts down into a tiny bundle that I can, if I run out of chase crew, inflate and fly without crew. Of course someone eventually needs to pick me up after I’ve landed
The photos show a sequence from setup to flight. The whole process should take only about 20 minutes.
At this point in time our balloon plans for 2013 include the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta in March and pssibly Levin in April. We are also in the planing stages of having a number of friends from the US come over about March with their own balloons and we’ll fly all around NZ for a month or so. Hope it works out!
If any you happen to be around and see us setting up our balloon please make yourself known and who knows, if there is space in the basket you could ‘come fly with us’.