We got up early again to catch the shuttle bus to the balloon launch field. We enjoyed the first day so much, we did not think today would be even better. Because of even more favorable conditions for ballooning, even more teams came out. At the Fiesta there are over 500 balloons, 1000 pilots, from over 50 countries that participate at the 365 acre fiesta park. The launch field is brimming with up to 80,000 guests.
To our surprise, this morning when the balloons launched they seemed to hover over the field, not scurry away like the first day. When they did float away they ventured to the southwest, then as they gained altitude they veered to the northeast. This is part of the “Albuquerque Box” that I mentioned in an earlier post. Amazingly, this allows the balloons to return to their starting point!
Large crowds are munching on their breakfast burritos, wrapped in blankets, and gazing skyward. Celia and I are snapping shot after shot.
We are starting to understand the process of getting the balloon ready: the spreading out of the canopy, taking off Velcro straps from the balloon, using a gas powered fan to inflate the balloon, switching to the propane gas to heat, then placing the balloon upright.
Launch control is provided by “Zebras”. They work with each pilot to know when to launch, confirming their credentials, and communicating with the control center. One by one, row after row, hundreds of balloons take to the sky. As each balloon lifts off, the crowd cheers and the pilots wave to the crowds.
As we were told, several of the balloons, especially the large ones returned to the launch field as if they had a rudder that could tame the winds.
We stayed and watched as the balloons returned to be put away for another day.