While people enjoy watching the colorful balloons floating through the sky, oftentimes they do not realize all of the work that actually goes into piloting a balloon. The festivities involved in activities like the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest make everything seem like a lot of fun.. but while there is fun to be had, hot air balloon piloting is serious business.
The pilots are responsible for expensive, precise equipment and the lives of themselves, their passengers and their crew members. From the time the pilot hooks onto his trailer carrying his basket, envelope, propane tanks, fans, tools etc. until they have flown the last flight at a festival, they are generally working.
Everyone the ball until it is out of sight.
Pilots must watch the weather and wind before deciding to launch. If the conditions are rainy, have poor visibility or high winds, then the flight is unlikely to go ahead. Pilots must also ensure that the crew and passengers are safe on the ground, during the flight and on landing. At the same time they are hosts to the passengers during the flight. Pilots like to point things out to passengers and explain a little about the physics of flying during their flight.
You will hear a lot of laughter at times around the launch field, but notice the quiet that settles once the preflight meeting starts. Now everyone is working and paying careful attention to what is going on with their equipment and that of those around them.
As with all who have a stressful job, our hot air pilots generally like to have some fun. Many of these pilots have flown at festivals together for years. They are dedicated totheir sport and to each other.