It was my second year shooting the balloon fest in High River. Weather this year was better then in 2015, so balloons were allowed to flight on the first day of the festival. There were many people at the Heritage inn on Wednesday night. Pilots were preparing for a flight; media and sponsors were registering; guests were just waiting for a show!
The pilots were competing for two trophies: Trumpeter Swan Trophy (awarded each year to the winner of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championship), and Western Canada Balloon Championship Trophy.
The sponsors were presented to the pilots. And all of us left towards the launching point after a small briefing about the weather.
After another safety meeting on the field, balloons started to come out the vehicles to be inflated. Safety is taken very serious and there are no flights, if there is a doubt about sudden weather changes or strong wind.
Baskets and bags with balloons are brought on the ground, unpacked, and put together by the crews. Each balloon has a crew of usually 3 or more people. Crews follow flying balloons by the ground and always ready to help!
Cliff Skocdopole was our pilot for the night. He became Canadian Hot Air Balloon Champion later same week. Congratulations Cliff and the crew!
Checking the burners is a must before each flight.
Everyone had a great mood as a flight was about to begin! Here is James from Great Britain. He was a youngest pilot at the Heritage Inn Festival.
Here are Karen and Jamie from the executives team.
Pilots give a quick instructions to their passengers, while balloons are getting ready.
It looks like it would take a lot of time before each balloon is fully inflated. However it is a quick procedure that takes no more than 10-15 minutes. The pilots keep checking everything to make sure is is safe to flight.
Crews start to inflate balloons right after it gets attached to the basket. After that pilots fill it with the hot air. When balloon has enough air, it brings the basket into vertical position. At this time entire crew is holding the basket not to let it fly away.
First balloon comes up in the air.
There was a competition for fun on the first day of the festival. The Cameron Balloon (in the sky on the previous picture) had to choose a spot somewhere on the ground and mark it with a big red color cross. The rest of the pilots had to wait at least 2 minutes before the Cameron balloon took off. They had to follow it and throw a special marker, trying to hit it as close to the center of the cross as they can. Everything was ready for a flight, so we got into the basket and took off, leaving the crew on the ground.
Most of balloons were inflating still.
We left the city limits following the Cameron balloon. It was quite ahead of us.
The rest of the balloons were closely following us.
A hot air balloon have no steering wheel. It can only go up and down. A pilot should find the wind that blows towards direction he needs to go. Different direction winds blow at the different altitudes.
You can`t feel any wind while flying. It is because you fly with the same speed and in the same direction as wind.
The lead balloon was preparing a cross on the ground (the red thing dangling from the basket is a future target that pilots had to hit),
while others were still flying.
The pilot and passengers have to watch balloons below to maintain safety during the flight and avoid collisions. You cannot see anything above you from the basket. At some point one of the balloons below us started gaining altitude too fast. Our pilot Cliff tried to go up, but it looked like we did not have enough time to do so, and other balloon was just about to collide with our basket. Cliff had to yell down to make sure that all are safe. The guys below us stopped ascending, and we continued our flight.
By the time we avoided the collision the target was too far, and Cliff started to look for a place to land.
Some pilots touched down to early, probably looking for a better wind direction, and did not get to the point.
Some got dragged a little, but this is a usual practice and can happen all the time.
While some balloons were already on the ground, others were still flying.
We had to go right in between two street lights in order to be able to land on the field ahead of us. It was a little scary, but Cliff professionally passed them right in the middle.
Our crew was already at the landing point.
They helped to pack the balloon right after we softly landed.
Our unforgettable trip has been finished after the group photo below! But our experience with the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival continued on Friday at the night glow. And pictures from the night glow are coming up next! Thank you Cliff and Sheri Skocdopole and the crew team for the flight! Thank you Karen Williamson for the opportunity to flight! Thank you Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival for all the positive emotions we have had!