The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began this morning — from my perch in the foothills I can see balloons floating near the Rio Grande five or six miles west. I go out every year or two to watch and occasionally crew — I posted a couple of photos last year — but it’s not my thing to rise at 4:30 and go out every morning. So no new photos yet — but if had them they would look pretty much like these below taken five years ago.
The Balloon Fiesta runs through next Sunday, October 10th. It’s something you really should see at least once.
Ballooning is an early morning event. The warmer the day, the hotter the air inside the balloon must get to make the balloon rise; too hot and the nylon may weaken.
|So, in the cool hour before dawn the pilots and crews arrive and begin laying out the fabric gas bags, most of which are made of ripstop nylon. The bags are about 80 feet long. (The envelopes in the photo are on tarps. Last week’s rain had left parts of the field muddy.)|
|Once laid out, the envelope is cold inflated using a gasoline powered fan to blow air into the envelope. To fully inflate, a typical two-three passenger balloon requires about 100,000 cubic feet of air (2,800 cubic meters). This is done with the envelope lying on its side, and with crew members tugging and pulling in appropriate ways. In this photo you can see part of the fan (the red object with the yellow label in the lower left corner).|
|When the moment is right, the air in the envelope is heated (carefully, so not to burn the nylon). Here you see pilot Greg Stell heating Fais Do Do. Look closely and you can see the blue flame. As the warmer air fills the balloon, the envelope and wicker basket gondola are pulled upright.|
|NewMexiKen hasn’t timed it, but I’d say that if all goes well, from lay out to ready-to-launch takes about 35-45 minutes. Here you see Fais Do Do shortly after launch Saturday morning moving rapidly south. On Sunday the wind took the balloons north, many as far as Bernalillo, 8 or 9 miles away. The shadow in this photo is from another balloon just to the left of Fais Do Do.|
|In Albuquerque during a mass ascension, more than 700 balloons are inflated and launched in two waves. Altogether that lasts from about 7 until about 9. Here you see a small portion.|
|Of course, there’s always those who’d rather be alone.|
|And there are those who prefer their balloons to be cute more than pretty. No, the squirrel is not playing with a ball. That is another balloon farther away. Late this week there are many, many more special shape balloons, some of them unbelievably large.|
|One of the bees.|
|What goes up must come down. Here is Fais Do Do gathered and ready to go back into the bag for the next day. Yes, that’s the gondola turned on its side — after, not during the landing.|
All photos taken by NewMexiKen, Saturday, October 1, 2005, at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, … .