How to fly a balloon

Apologies in advance. This is a long post, or at least there are quite a few photos. This is the story of a balloon flight from start to finish in pictures. Well at least through my eyes!

First things first, the balloon has to be transported to the launch site and this is done is the back of a trailer. The envelope (balloon to you and me) is packed away in a big bag and has to be dragged  off the trailer by the crew. That’s Pauline’s arse on the right that she asked me not to shoot!

Pulling a hot air balloon off it's trailer
Pull…..

Then comes the inflation bit. To start off the envelope is attached to the basket (always a good idea) and to get it going a couple of big fans blow cold air into it. That’s where the passengers start to get roped in to helping out. In all fairness they love it.

Blowing cold air into balloon with fan
He’s a big fan….

Of course inflating a big balloon like the Hunky Dory one needs all hands on deck so the passengers join in and lend a hand. This time holding the envelope as the hot air is blown in and the balloon starts to rise. Naturally I missed the shot of the day when this gentleman lost his grip and fell flat on his arse. Mind you I probably wouldn’t have published it to save his embarrassment. Then again, knowing me, I’d have made a whole blog post out of it…..

man holding balloon as it's inflated
Holding on for dear life…..

Speaking of embarrassment……not everyone is comfortable with lifting off the ground in a wicker basket and a balloon overhead.  To be fair, she was fine and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

girl with funny expression on face
Sometimes people are worried before take off….

Eventually we had lift off and they headed into the great blue yonder.

Taking off in a hot air balloon
Take off….

So we waved good bye to the balloon and hopped into the recovery vehicles. It’s one of those things you don’t really think about. Someone has to go and get the balloon back along with the passengers and crew who have been taken by the wind and deposited somewhere many miles away.

To keep track of the balloon, the most modern and sophisticated systems are used. Forget Sat Nav, GPS and satellites. The system used is much more advanced, it’s called LOTW – short for Looking Out The Window.

following a balloon in the recovery vechicle
Keeping track of the balloon….

So we’ve followed the balloon for miles using our sophisticated tracking system and eventually it lands in a field. Quick phone call to the landowner and we have permission to drive through the flood inside his gate to retrieve the balloon. This is where 4WD, slip diffs and chunky tyres come into their own!

4x4 driving bus through a flood
Wee drop of water…

So after crossing the Shannon and reaching the balloon it’s time to pack up. This is where the traditional “Balloon Dance” takes place. Usually some local school kids are enlisted to perform the ritual “jump up and down like mad things” on the bag to get rid of all the air.

kids dancing on a hot air balloon to expel the air
Dancing at the crossroads…..

So after all that everyone is down safely and there are smiles all round. A balloon flight is one of those things you should do before you die. It’s a unique experience, nothing like an airplane or helicopter flight as it is so much more peaceful and calm than any other way of flying and you get to see the countryside in a unique way.

Look up Balloons.ie for more info and if you want to see the rest of the photos have a look at my Pix.ie set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Denis O'Donovan

Photographer. Professional Killer. Angler.

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