Every year people make their way to Jamesville Beach for Balloonfest. They go as spectators and passengers, but many do not realize all the work that goes into a successful launch. Our Iris St. Meran spoke with a pilot about what goes into each flight.
JAMESVILLE, N.Y. -- Before they can even get off the ground, hot air balloon pilots at Balloonfest have what they call a pilot weather briefing. Weather plays a very important role, so the briefing determines how pilots will spend their day.
Above All Balloon Rides owner, Scott Griswold said, "We need some very calm winds to fly, 10 miles an hour or less with the winds and obviously some clear skies. Those are our most ideal conditions. The balloon is very big, it's kind of a like a big sailboat in the wind. So it can get pushed around quite a bit if the wind is heavy."
Rain on Saturday only allowed for tethered rides in the morning. When ideal conditions do prevail, they get to work. First they need to open it up so this balloon that is 77,000 cubic feet can inflate.
"You want to inflate it with cold air which we use a big fan for,” Griswold said, “Once it's kind of packed like a big beach ball, we turn on our burners, our heaters, and it heats that air inside and that's what allows it to raise up in the air."
Then they determine based on weight how many passengers can come onboard. Once they are airborne, airborne there is even more responsibility.
Griswold said, "A very important thing is fuel management. So we kind of watch how much fuel we're using. If it's a really warm day, we have to use a lot of fuel."
Pilots can fly solo but the takeoff and landing is a team sport.
"Chase crew helps launch balloon, then they hop in our chase vehicles and follow us to our landing site. They don't know where they're going either. A lot of times we have radio communication. They're usually there on landing and help us pack it up,” said Griswold.
Then they are up and on their way to do it all over again. Griswold said the relationships he has made and seeing the excitement on the faces of passengers and onlookers makes this all worthwhile.
Balloonfest runs through Sunday.
Visit http://syracuseballoonfest.com for information on schedules, parking and prices.