Today was the Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension. Balloons from all the countries represented flew first, flying the flag of their country from the basket. The United States flag flies on the first balloon after the Dawn Patrol every morning as the Star Spangled Banner is sung or played. As we were entering the park this morning to watch this impressive sight, we passed a couple of people trying to recruit crew members for several balloon teams. We had nothing more pressing, so we said we would and were assigned to one of the Rainbow Ryders balloons. They have a paid crew so we were just extra hands, but they asked if we’d like to hold the mouth of the balloon open while they inflated it.
They had one of these BIG jobbies on each side of the basket aimed at the mouth of the balloon, with LeRoy holding one side and me the other. Talk about force! It was all I could do to remain upright and holding the edge of the fabric. I wish I’d had an extra hand to take a picture of the inside of the balloon. Most of the fabric was flat on the ground and as the air came in and raised the top, the workers straightened out the folds and creases in the fabric while the pilot checked all the ropes that went from the top of the balloon to the basket. After the balloon was filled with air, they added heat to get it stood up.
The basket carried 4 80-pound bottles of propane! When the balloon began to lift, we didn’t need to hold on anymore. LeRoy helped several other men set the basket upright and then a camera crew and the pilot got in for takeoff.
The FAA has people on the field dressed in black and white striped shirts and usually white pants, hence the nickname “zebras”.
They are the launch directors and give permission for the launch of each balloon. Very soon, our team was off and we were still standing on the ground. We’ll be back in action Sunday morning, only with a different team. Loads of fun!
Today was a lunch for volunteers at the Albuquerque Zoo, but I’ll save that for another post.