I've been very fortunate to get quite a bit of exposure to hot air ballooning in the last 2 years since my son-in-law Mitch has a commercial balloon rating and an basket with two envelopes, a 77,000 cubic foot and a 90,000. It works out well for me to be crew and chase vehicle driver when he has rides to fly... and now I'm in training in hopes of getting my rating before too long as well. I've been a fan of ballooning since I was about 12, so finally getting the chance to fly this way is tremendously satisfying.
Mitch participated in the Carolina Balloon Fest again this year, and I was there helping him out some. I even got to go flying as the pictures here show! My wife and I took the opportunity to turn it all into a small vacation by heading over early in the week to visit the Biltmore mansion, and to just get away... and then Friday and Saturday I helped Mitch some with the balloon. The pictures are from Saturday morning when most of the approximately 55 balloons in attendance took to the skies.
It was a beautiful morning for some lighter-than-air flying! And while the surface winds were nice and light, the winds at just 300 feet were scooting right along at about 14mph. Ballooning really teaches you that the wind is a far more complicated partner in flying than the typical fixed wing pilot understands. In addition to the vast difference in wind velocity that morning between the surface and 300 feet, there was about a 90 degree shift in the wind direction as well. It sure makes for some interesting flying!
Btw, I didn't even take my DSLR camera on this vacation, so these pix are from my Galaxy Note II... the same phone that went thru the mower blades a few months back and didn't even get a scratch on it! Fortunately, my Otterbox Commuter case gave up its life to totally save the phone!
It's looking more and more like ballooning will be my point-of-entry back into having my own flying machine since for less than $10,000 you can fetch up an airworthy set up, and sometimes you can even get in the air for substantially less. You have to look around a bit and know what you're looking for, and obviously a very affordable set up most likely has much of its useful life already used up. But compared to my $25,000 to $40,000 Piper Cub desires, ballooning can be quite affordable.
Hot air ballooning is challenging and a lot more work than I'm guessing most fixed wing pilots understand... and I love it!
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