Chasing the Wind

The hot air balloon pilot is indispensable for a balloon flight. He/she expertly launches the huge balloon into the air, guides it over the treetops or up into the air hundreds of feet from the ground, then makes sure it lands safely. But that’s only part of the story.

The other part, the ground crew, is also indispensable-although maybe not as flashy (only kidding, although he does handle that big burner...), swaggering, and cool. Otherwise known as the “chase crew”, or simply “the chase”, these folks, with the pilot, ready the balloon for flight, follow it (‘chase’) during the flight, then position themselves to help safely land the huge craft. This, while driving the truck/trailer balloon rig, taking directions from the pilot, and taking pictures! An experienced, capable ground crew, who can take direction and who ‘knows the ropes’ is necessary for a flawless flight. Actually, “Chase” is a bit of a misnomer. The chase crew needs to stay in front of the balloon. They need to be there, whenever possible, when the pilot is landing. Hence, the importance of being able to follow directions and listen to the pilot. To land this 2-ton behemoth, the crew positions itself in the general area of the anticipated landing spot and gets ready to gently guide it over the ground or quickly jump on it as it floats to earth. This is where their ‘take direction’ skill comes in handy. The pilot will be directing exactly where the balloon needs to be, down to the exact way it needs to be turned and pointed. And what passenger doesn’t appreciate a well-composed photo of themselves enjoying the ride of their lives, or a stunning picture of the balloon during their flight? Yep-chase crew also-although the pilot also takes great photos.

Phew.

Packing up the balloon, with the help of the passengers (you-and more photo ops!) takes about fifteen minutes. The crew stows the balloon and cameras, then hops back in the rig with the passengers. The pilot drives the rig back to the airport. In case you forgot who’s in charge 😉.

Actually, I think I’m going to get Superhero shirts. For the chase.

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