Hot Air Balloon Crew Briefing

The balloon cannot be set up and inflated safely by the pilot alone, therefore the hot air balloon crew will usually be asked to help with one of the following duties:

  • Mouth Crew
  • Crown Crew
  • Inflation Fan
  • The Retrieve

After laying out the envelope and rigging the basket and burner, the envelope will be inflated with cold air using the inflation fan. Once the enveloped is filled with cold air, hot inflation commences. The powerful propane burner is used to heat the air within the envelope until it is vertical above the basket.

Regardless of which tasks you to are asked to perform, there a few golden rules:

  • Your feet must never leave the ground unless you are in the basket.
  • If you are holding on to something, let go before you are lifted off the ground.
  • You must always wear thick gloves.

Mouth Crew

The mouth crew assist with the inflation by holding open the mouth of the balloon until there is sufficient pressure within the balloon envelope. They should stand outside the wires and by holding onto the bottom of the balloon mouth fabric create a large opening. During the hot inflation the mouth crew should move behind the lower fire proof fabric panels of the balloon.

Mouth Crew Briefing

  • Wear gloves and long sleeve natural fibre clothing.
  • Hold the mouth at the wire / load tape sleeve.
  • Once the mouth is raised well off the ground stand back and assist with the restraint of the basket.
  • If at any point you become hot from the burner flame let go and step away.
  • Do not allow yourself to be lifted off the ground - let go first.

Crown Line Crew

Once the balloon envelope has been filled with cold air and the hot inflation is started it is very important that the top of the balloon (the crown) is restrained from rising too quickly. If this happens a bubble of hot air will fill the top of the balloon and cause the mouth at the bottom to close. In extreme cases this will cause the bottom of the balloon fabric to become scorched, when the burner is used. If is therefore very important for the crown crew to restrain the top of the balloon from rising too quickly during the early stages of the hot inflation.

Crown Crew Briefing

  • Dont allow onlookers to help with the crown line.
  • Always stay at the end of the crown line.
  • Do not loop the line around your body or limbs.
  • Slowly let the balloon rise until the whole parachute valve is visible. Then resist any further rise until the pull is overpowering. Give in slowly.
  • If the envelope moves from side to side follow the movement, don’t fight it.
  • Move forward step by step, under control until the balloon is vertical.
  • Stand by the basket ready to restrain it.
  • At no time allow yourself to be lifted from the ground - let go first.

Inflation Fan Crew

The combustion engine driven inflation fan is probably the most dangerous piece of ballooning equipment. The fan will be positioned in the correct position by the pilot prior to cold inflation. The fan should be angled such that the airflow created will enter the envelope through the mouth. The fan will be started by the pilot and initially run at low speed during the early stages of cold inflation. Once the parachute has been fitted to the crown the fan speed will be increased to full. It may be necessary to move or tilt the fan to ensure the most efficient filling of the envelope. Once the mouth of the balloon lifts clear of the ground during hot inflation the fan should be turned off and moved well away from the balloon. Before stowing the fan in the trailer the fuel supply on the fan must be switched off.

Inflation Fan Crew Briefing

  • Ensure that you are familiar with the fan controls.
  • Direct the output from the fan into the mouth aiming at the top centre of the balloon / crown.
  • During cold inflation turn the fan off at any sign of danger.
  • During hot inflation tilt the fan back as the balloon envelope rises and keep aiming the fan at the centre of the balloon.
  • Once the mouth of the balloon is clear of the ground, turn off the fan and move it well away.

  • Once the fan has been moved away assist with the restraint of the basket.
  • Do not allow yourself to be lifted off the ground - let go first.

Retrieve Crew

The basic principle of a retrieve is to safely follow the balloon and pick up passengers and equipment at the end of the flight. The balloon track will in general follow a straight track. Travelling by winding country roads will mean that the retrieve crew will travel 4 to 6 times as far as the balloon during a retrieve.

Retrieve Briefing

  • Ensure that you know where you are and have the necessary maps before the balloon is launched.
  • Ensure that you have the keys to the retrieve vehicle, any gates and an that mobile phone numbers are agreed.
  • Ensure that you know how to drive the vehicle and are insured for it.
  • Try to follow the balloon track on a map and follow sensible roads in that direction, without getting ahead of the balloon.
  • In the UK, vehicles must not be driven on private land without prior permission
  • Above all, drive safely and carefully.