-What weather is needed for a hot air balloon flight?
There needs to be no storm activity or rain in the area.
The winds need to be under 10 miles per hour.
- What time are flights scheduled?
Flights are scheduled at sunrise and just before sunset because that is when the winds are the calmest.
-What is the balloon made of?
Hot-air balloons are made of a polyester or nylon material.
-What kind of fuel is used?
Propane is the fuel used for flying hot-air balloons.
How do balloons 'race'?
its not a 'first one across the finish line race'
During balloon competitions, the goal for pilots is to score as close to a pre-determined target. Pilots have small weighted markers, called baggies, that they have to throw at the targets.
Unlike other forms of flying, hot air balloons have no control of the direction they fly. the wind carries the balloons. So in order to hit the target, pilots must track the winds aloft and plan their take off locations so they can get closest to the target
Pilots have become quite skilled at competitions, the difference between first, second, third and fourth place can be just fractions of an inch apart.
There are rules during competition flights, and any violations against the rules a pilot makes, they will get points docked from their score. The event directors set up complicated tasks for pilots to accomplish, some examples of tasks:
Hare and Hound
All the balloons launch from the same location. The first balloon to take off is the Hare, which carries the target, a large fabric X. The other balloons are hounds, they will launch after the hare, but they cannot begin their inflation and launch until a predetermined time after the hare is already in the air. This gives the hare time to find a location to land and layout the X for the other pilots to throw their baggies as close to the middle and score points on the target.The closest to the middle the pilots get the more points they receive.
Convergent Navigational Task
The target is placed in a location, usually the event location for spectators to watch as the balloons fly in and try to score at the X. The balloons must launch from a certain radius from the target location, roughly 1, 2, or 3 miles away depending what their task sheet says,which is determined by the event director. The pilots then have to fly in and hit the X as close to the middle with their baggies to score points.
This is a two part task, it combines a CNT and Hare and Hound. There will be a target at the event field, where pilots will drop their first marker. Then there will be a Hare balloon that will take off from the first target and then all the other balloons become hound balloons and must follow to the next X. The pilots must throw their markers to the second target.
A 10-20 foot pole is set up on the event field, with a detachable ring fastened to the top. Instead of an X for the target, the pilots goal is the be the first to retrieve the ring from the top of the pole. The pilot who grabs the ring first wins the prize predetermined for the flight. The prizes could be anything from a cash prize, to a new car or truck, there are a multitude of prizes that could be given away.
Sometimes a pole grab can be simultaneously paired up with a CST. where there is a target X on the event field with the pole grab. The pilots must throw their markers at the target X and grab the ring at the top of the pole. With the combined two, one pilot could do exceptionally well during one flight.
Minimum Distance Double Drop
The goal is to drop both markers as close together as possible. There are typically 4 scoring areas and pilots have to get their markers in two scoring areas opposite of each other on the scoring field. If the markers drift out of the scoring areas into the wrong ones, it results in a no score for that flight.
Pilots take off from a common launch point (Point A) and fly to a judge declared goal (Point B). One marker is dropped at point B. The pilot then tries to change the direction of flight by using the winds at different altitudes and drop a second marker at a different point (Point C).
Multiple Pilot Declared Goal
The competition director will assign pilots to drop markers at multiple targets of their choice. Targets are usually road intersections or road - railroad intersections. Sounds easy! But the targets must be identified by their map coordinates. The first target's coordinates must be declared before launch, the coordinates for the second target must be written on the tail of the marker dropped at the first target, and so on. Errors in writing down the coordinates or choosing a target that is difficult to get to can cost precious points.
Gordon Bennett Memorial
Competitors will attempt to drop a marker within a scoring area(s) close to a set goal
As you can see, balloon competitions can be very challenging. Serious competitors use very sophisticated computer programs to track wind speed and direction before they fly, and use GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers in the balloon during flight to assist in determining the best altitude to fly to get to the next target.
In the early days of competition flying, some pilots felt lucky to drop a marker within a hundred feet of a target. Today, the center of a target can have dozens of markers within a foot of its center. Sometimes penalty points or a rules violation can make the difference