Something for Everyone: Quick overview of a balloon team General responsibilities How does one become a crew member? Perks for the crew :-) Something for Experienced Crew (and possibly the novice): Useful tips on crewing Help on handling specific situations Other: Disclaimer


Start off on the right (or left) foot: - Always communicate with the pilot, he is responsible.
A hot air balloon team consists of a pilot and enough crew persons to help set up and launch the balloon for flight. Then the fun begins.... As the pilot flies off, the crew drives the chase vehicle to follow on the ground, trying to keep up as the balloon floats on its merry way. This can be very challenging as the balloon sometimes heads across areas where the road doesn't go.
Being there when the balloon finally lands gives you a great sense of satisfaction. Now it's time to help pack up the balloon. Sometimes there is an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers ... most times we will invite them to join in and help. As the saying goes, " the more the merrier," and also the easier it is to pack up.
After the balloon is back in the bag, the next step is a traditional "champagne toast" and socializing with all those around - passengers, landowners, extra hands ...... A good time is had by all.
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Don't get tangled in any ropes or handling lines Don't wrap or tie any lines or ropes around you Remove balloon system from truck Help lay out balloon system for inflation Help with crowd control Keep area to the SIDE (in line with the blade) and FRONT of FAN CLEAR of PEOPLE Keep LOOSE Objects (scarf, clothing, fingers...) CLEAR of FAN Steady balloon during inflation Turn off inflator fan Provide "weight-on" after balloon is standing ... In other words: lean your weight over the siderail on the basket ... (this helps keep it stable, and on the ground, before launching)
Pack up all items still on the launch field (ie: fan, tie downs....) Safely follow the balloon in the chase vehicle: ... Spotting ... Navigating (ie: map reading, determining which roads to take) ... Arrive at landing site about the same time as the balloon
Obtain landowner's permission to enter their property ... Hopefully you are there and get permission before the balloon lands Pack up the balloon system Be a part of the after-flight "champagne toast" and celebration

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Real simple .. just ask. Most pilots are more than willing to take on new people as crew. Just ask any pilot or crew member. You can even send me an e-mail.

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Pilots enjoy ballooning as a sport and derive a lot of pleasure out of flying. This atmosphere adds to the overall enjoyment of all those involved (yourself included). So, even though you are "working," it is still a pleasurable experience (why else would anyone want to get up at "O-dark-thirty").

Crew members often form lasting friendships with other crew and pilots. You may also have the opportunity to attend various balloon festivals.

And, I've saved this one for last, your pilot may also offer you a "free" ride for all your "work." They may base it on amount of time crewed since last time you flew, or the need for added weight in the basket, or just because....

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How do you know which road to take? How to stop losing glasses in the field Finding the balloon if you lose it Fan Safety Maps Crown line and a little wind Propane refueling Team Communications Miscellaneous tips

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Check out the name of the road:
.....Roads & Streets usually go someplace
.....Lane may go through, but could also be a dead end
........(if it's a country lane, it may go a long way)
.....Way & Court may not go far --probably a dead end
.....Circle brings you back to where you started
.....Double or Single lines on a road could mean it goes someplace

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HOW TO STOP LOSING GLASSES IN THE FIELD (reading or sunglasses):

Make sure your clothing has a pocket large enough to hold them Make sure that same pocket closes with any of the following:
.....Zippers, Velcro, Buttons, Safety pin
Use a fanny pack Use croakies (they attach to glasses and allow them to hang
.....around your neck, like your grandmother's did)

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If this is towards the end of the flight
.....(and prior to calling the lost balloon telephone number)
Continue trying to make radio contact as you search
.....when you do make contact, STOP and find out more info before proceeding.
Work the box -- search in a box pattern (smaller to larger)
.....around the area you anticipate the balloon to be, and depending upon the
.....circumstances covering the area you last saw or heard the balloon
Look for high ground
.....being on a rise can increase the chance of picking up radio signals
.......*Note: weaker signal does not always mean you are going in the wrong direction
..............roads in ridges and valleys tend to meander back and forth -- even though you are
.............going in the right direction, the signal may get weaker at times

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Make sure the fan is operated in a safe manner. Always station someone at the fan. Fan should not be moved while running (could cause wear or failure on the shaft) Keep fingers, hair, other body parts, and clothing well away from the fan cage.
--- A Spinning fan blade CAN amputate your finger.
--- Loose objects CAN get wrapped around the fan shaft AND pull you in.
Make sure spectators (and crew) are not in line with the spinning fan blade.
--- if (or when) the blade breaks, pieces fly off at life threatening speeds.
Fan should not be moved while running.
--- may cause the shaft or bearing failure (and possibly self destruct -- again life threatening).

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Chase crew should be briefed by pilot concerning maps
.....Where are they starting from (locate yourself on the map?
.....What is the direction of the projected flight plan?
.....Chase crew should also watch the pibal (pronounced pie-ball).
Local Inexperienced crew
.....Local crew should identify the launch site on the map.
.....Experienced crew should discuss probable flight plan with the local crew
.....----- getting lost is no fun -----
Sometimes you need to help the pilot avoid "red" zones navigating is fine, but good community relations may require using a map!

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CROWN LINE AND A LITTLE WIND (balloon rolling from side to side)

At least two schools of thought ... Pull the crown line tight rather than move side to side. Ask for crew to hold onto each side via the load tapes of the envelope to help steady it.
.... note: this may not be possible or desired by some pilots.
If you must move side to side, release tension on the crown line slightly
.....before the balloon comes to a stop and begins rolling in the opposite direction.

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Don't stand in the basket. Don't smoke around it. Don't assume you have been disconnected from fueling by anyone - double check! Don't have unnecessary people around - if problems arise, more people can be hurt. Observe all safety commands given to you by the propane workers. Do wear gloves/arm/leg/feet/eye protection (preferably a natural fiber like cotton). Do plan an exit route if refueling in a trailer (share the plan with your partner). Do try to have 2 people refueling, 1 at the tank & 1 at the hose. Do brief a new person in what is expected in refueling your system - Don't skimp on safety. Do have a fire extinguisher handy. Do take your time when pulling up/backing up to refuel. Don't allow an inexperienced refueler to do it alone - provide some oversight.

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It is very important that you work out your methods of communications beforehand: What signals are used when the pilot wants the fan turned off, slowed down, sped up? How do you know when to take weight off (and acknowledge it)? How do you know when to bring the crown line in? How do you get the pilot's attention during the hot inflation activity? How do you signal a problem when you are alone on the crown line and no one else is around? How do you tell the pilot of problems on the ground while he is in the air? do not want to alarm his passengers or chase vehicle passengers!

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Running out towards the balloon on landing? -- Women: Maybe a Sports Bra is Advisable Park in the direction of traffic while on the chase (and retrieval) of the balloon Pay attention to that nagging voice in your head telling you "there is something wrong here"
.....your instincts may be onto something
Make sure the people on the GROUND have the chase vehicle key in hand before lift-off Make sure you wear gloves while handling the balloon system need for unnecessary rope burns or cuts and tears due to burrs, stickers,...
Stay clear of the Tie-off (or ground) line -- when it snaps back, it could cause injury Never wrap or tie a line around you - you could be seriously injured Do not get tangled in the lines or webbing - again, you could be seriously injured Roads are for cars & motorcycles .. if you must stretch the crown line across the road,
..... make sure you have people to block traffic (DO NOT BEHEAD motorcyclists!)

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Pilot is doing tether rides in a field after landing. A number of spectators (young and old) abound. Basket lands; you put weight on; the passengers quickly disembark (without pilot consent) and the basket begins to rise before new passengers are ready to get in. You find your feet are no longer on mother earth (maybe a foot or so off the ground and rising).

What should you do?
It's a judgment call, but.... Let others know you are letting go, and then let go before its too late. Let others know you are letting go, and then let go before its too late.
.....(intentionally repeated, since you could get seriously hurt if you fell from 10 feet or more)
How could this have been avoided? Crew should block the passengers from exiting without pilot consent. Pilot should try to restrain the passengers (just a hand on the shoulder be enough).

More situations will be coming soon
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Items on this web page are intended for general interest only. Crew participation will vary due to your level of experience, number of people involved, weather conditions and, of course, the methods followed by the pilot.

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