HomeUncategorizedHow to maintain direction of hot air balloon

How to maintain direction of hot air balloon

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Excellent balloon control skills are also a must in order to steer precisely

Once a ground track and downwind landmark are verified by repeated panning as described above and the balloon is still in level flight, the pilot should focus on the landmark. It is from this position that most in-depth flight planning and execution is done. It is much easier to notice minute changes in direction immediately if you focus on a landmark that is on a line precisely downwind. If this is done correctly, subsequent panning should reveal very tiny fluctuations in direction with minor altitude changes or at least predict the drift tolerances of the “same level” winds. This is also the vantage from which my personal “fly by direction” technique is implemented.

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Hot Air Balloon Steering Technique – 1 of 2

This technique first requires reassessing direction until I have positioned my balloon in a wind that is going directly to my target (or desired landmark). At that point, I assess where I am in the “steer zone”. The steer zone is that altitude where below you is left turn (for instance) and above you is more right. At your current level, you are going straight relative to above and below you. At this point, you simply have to focus on your target. If you find yourself on a track slightly left, you ease upward until the line straightens up. If right, you ease down, anticipating the slight turn left so you can stop the balloon at the appropriate altitude. This “fly by direction” allows the pilot to focus on just one key item (landmark), thus reducing other distractions and brain clutter. You never have to consult your altimeter. Depending on which side of the target you are traveling to, you ease up or down to correct. This straight line (ground track) flight to a landmark also provides time for a pilot to evaluate the terrain ahead and determine if it’s suitable for the flight or approach he/she had in mind. If so, a little spit over the side (watch it hit the ground if possible) and he/she has even more information and likely more options. This step in the steering process is very important for flight planning. It’s kind of like “cruise control” and lets the pilot think about and plan the options ahead. Again, if the balloon inadvertently enters significantly different wind unnoticed, all of the strategies relating to the projected destination are for naught and must be “remapped” again.

Hot Air Balloon Steering Technique – 2 of 2

There is one other steering technique that comes to mind and it is what I call “flying the curve”. This situation commonly sets up during morning flights. From a couple hundred feet in altitude on down to the surface, the morning wind usually makes a smooth left turn arc. (Don’t count on it 1 ? hours after sunrise!) This wind is often used to approach early morning targets in competition for a close throw. The trick to executing this approach successfully is of course having the precise vertical control we’ve discussed and properly assessing the “basket breeze” (The wind track you feel in the basket during a descent is the direction you will travel when the envelope enters that wind) during the descent. The “basket breeze” allows the pilot to forecast the speed and direction of the turn before the envelope gets there and actually makes the turn. This allows the pilot to accelerate or decelerate the turn as needed by going down faster or slower

while again focusing only on the center of the target. This technique takes practice but once the pilot has mastered the integration of up/down – less turn/more turn relation, it becomes like steering a car in a parking lot.

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