Crew: Ballooning is not an individual sport. The ground crew is an essential and integral part, and nothing is more valuable for a good and successful flight than a well trained and well instructed ground crew. This is an shorter version of a chase crew guide that I put together to help train volunteer crew for a balloon event.
- You should get permission whenever possible.
- Do not drive through crops or try to go through locked gates.
- Do not cut fences.
- Stay on the edge of a field to cause the least amount of impact.
What to wear
- Wear long pants for sage hopping and cactus dodging. Avoid skirts and dresses.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good tread or warm winter boots (No heels or sandals)
- Wear leather gloves for handling ropes
- No long scarves, coat strings, fanny pack straps, loose long hair, or other dangling items that can become caught in the inflator fan.
- No excessive jewelry or pins which can snag balloon fabric
Launch and Landing site selection
Take into consideration the different problems a launch spot can have for crew, including:
- Deep snow (you can't move)
- Tall weeds and grass (you get entangled)
- Ice (slick footing)
- Rough ground (rocks, holes, debris)
- Cow pastures (cow patties)
Also take into consideration space for the crown line and try to avoid obstacles such as:
- Ditches, fences, snow banks, buildings, etc.
- If it is necessary to use a short crown line, only an experienced crew person should do so.
Things Crew Should Know Before Take Off
Where the inflator fan is placed in the chase vehicle after launch
How the inflator fan is tied down (a loose inflator fan gets ugly!!)
Where the envelope bag and other equipment is stored for the chase
Where emergency numbers are located in the chase vehicle, including:
- A pre-arranged number to call in case the balloon is lost (pilot's cell phone)
- 911- in case of an accident
- Leave keys in vehicle, have an extra key outside the vehicle
- How to drive chase vehicle
- Know how to back up a trailer, if necessary
- If you are a fan tender, make sure you know where the off switch is
When preparing for cold inflation (using inflator fan to fill balloon with cold air):
- No smoking
- Do not step on fabric
- Be attentive to pilot instructions for various tasks
Proper Crown Line Procedure
"The crown line is the most important interaction between the pilot and
- The purpose of the crown line person is to stabilize the balloon and keep it from oscillating from side to side, not to hold it down.
- The crown line person needs to understand the pilots hand signals for direction and to stabilize oscillation.
- Do not wrap any ropes, cables, or cords around your hand or any other part of your body
- Hold crown line taut allowing the envelope to rise slowly as pilot hot inflates
- Do not allow the envelope to go past vertical
- If the valve velcro comes loose, let the envelope up faster to about 2/3 of the way up or until the inside pressure reseats the top. Then slow down until the envelope is vertical.
- A safe short line procedure is:
- Pile extra rope behind you so you won't step into it as it uncoils
- Put rope around your backside and do not cross in front of the body
- Do not wrap around hands, feet, or any other part of the body
- DO NOT LET GO OF THE ROPE!
- Using the suspension lines hold the mouth of the balloon open so that air from the inflator fan can fill the envelope
- When the pilot begins to heat the air, look away from the flame and don't let go until the balloon rises
The Cold Inflation Fan
"The cold inflator fan is the most dangerous piece of equipment that is
- Remove loose articles of clothing and dangling jewelry
-Know where the off switch is
- Hold fan to prevent it from vibrating out of position
- If you are instructed to move the fan, turn it off. NEVER MOVE THE FAN WHILE THE BLADE IS SPINNING!
- When you are signaled by the pilot, turn off the fan.
- After hot inflation, crown line person will secure crown line handle to the basket
- Move the inflator fan back out of the way (about 10 feet or near chase vehicle)
- Complete a radio check
- Put weight on the basket by holding down on the sides of the basket until the pilot instructs you to let go or "Âweight off"
Things for the Crew to Do After Launch
- Pack up and secure equipment
- Tie down inflator fan
- Envelope bag and all other covers and tie off equipment should be properly stored
- Check all tie down, tailgates, trailer hitch, and make sure the keys are in vehicle
- Use radio courtesy
- Communicate clearly
- Identify yourself if there are others on your channel
- Use appropriate language, do not criticize other crew members on the radio
- Use short, clear, accurate instructions
- Listen carefully, comprehend and/or ask questions
- Keep radio use to a minimum, especially if there are others on the channel
- Always give feedback over the radio to let the pilot know that you heard and understand his or her instructions (ex. "Âok" or "Roger"
- Drive with respect for others
- Obey all traffic laws
- Don't try to watch the balloon and drive at the same time, pull over to watch the balloon
- You can hang out in parking lots or wide spots along the road while waiting, but do not impede traffic.
- Leave yourself turning options
- Try to stay ahead of the balloon, but not too far, in case it changes direction
- Follow pilot instructions to get you to the landing area
Land Owner Courtesy
- Courteous (Never argue or threaten)
- Respectful to property, ask permission if at all possible
- Not Intrusive (Never enter into a field on a crop, cut fences, or leave gates open. Be aware of livestock. Drive only on existing roads if at all possible
- If things get out of line or out of control with the land owner:
- Do not argue
- Contact the pilot
- Police may have to be called to mediate
- If possible, be at the landing site before the balloon lands
- Don't park chase vehicle in the path of an incoming balloon
- You can park by obstacles, including power poles, fences, trees, building, etc
- Approach the basket from the sides or behind
- Never stand in front (downwind) of moving balloon basket while the balloon is landing or while walking the balloon
- On a "high wind" landing stay out of the way until the balloon is down
- On a regular landing, crew can assist by catching the basket from behind, and slowing the forward motion by putting weight on at the moment of touch down. Lift feet off the ground to prevent injury from being dragged off the basket or the basket landing on your feet. If the basket bounces more than a few inches off the ground, LET GO OF THE BASKET!
- Do not put feet on handles of step holes to hold the basket down
Deflation and Pack-Up
- The crown line person will pull down wind on the pilot's instruction, pulling the envelope into a horizontal position
- Pull as hard as you can and don't let go!
- Other crew members will squeeze the air out of the envelope, or "milk" the balloon
- Starting at the skirt, gather the fabric in your arms squeezing air out. Work your way towards the top of the balloon until it is flat. (make sure there is nothing sharp on your clothing or in your pockets that can snag the fabric.)
- Pack envelope in bag
- Load equipment into the chase vehicle and replace proper tie downs
- Never drag the envelope bag on pavement or cement
- After it is tied shut, it is ok to roll the bag
- Power Line Contact
- DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ! - electricity may be traveling through the balloon and will travel through you to ground
- Call the power company and give them the number of the nearest pole (all poles have an ID number on them)
- Keep others away
- Injuries During Landing
- Be prepared for cuts, burns, bruises, or broken bones
- Call 911 if injury is serious
- Do first aid to make sure the injured person is breathing
- Don't move the injured person if there is a possibility of neck or back injury
- In case of burns, cool the burned skin by pouring cold water on it. Remove jewelry and clothing from near the burned area. Cover the burned area with something clean and dry. Seek medical attention immediately.
- In case of a broken bone, control bleeding if present. If the bone is sticking out, cover it with something clean. If you can not get immediate medical attention, splint the bone until you can get to a hospital.
- Lost Balloon (No radio contact)
- Call the pre-arranged cell phone number to contact the pilot and get direction to the location of the balloon.
- If you can not reach the pilot, contact race officials.
- Emergency Equipment
- Most pilots have a first aid kit in the chase vehicle
- There is a fire extinguisher in the basket of each balloon. Some pilots also keep one in the chase vehicle.