by Amy Lignor
New Mexico is the state that always enjoys the largest conglomeration of pilots, crews, spectators and hobbyists on an annual basis, that truly worship the art of hot air ballooning.
It is Albuquerque, New Mexico that hosts the International Balloon Fiesta each and every year, with people from all over the world traveling to attend this stunning nine-day event in the month of October.
Being a resident, this past week has been a truly stunning sight, yet again. It is no wonder, after heading out at dawn with coffee in hand and witnessing the unbelievable sight of hundreds of colorful balloons float above the city with the Sandia Mountains offering a beautiful backdrop, that the hobby of hot air ballooning is at the top of the list for outdoor enthusiasts. This is one sport that truly offers the greatest challenge of all.
Not only is hot air ballooning a stunning way to spend time seeing the grand landscapes and views of this amazing country, but it’s also an outdoor adventure for any hobbyist who wants to delve into a sport that not many can claim to be experts at.
Hot air ballooning also incorporates the art of photography. After all, having hundreds of these balloons rise up in the air makes it a virtual feast for the eyes, with photographers coming from all over the world to be a part of this well-known and well-loved event.
There are also unforgettable balloon glows and other balloon illumination events that are held at the Albuquerque balloon fiesta. Here, all enthusiasts can take a walk among the balloons of every color, shape and size that can possibly be imagined and ask questions of the experts.
When wanting to take on hot air ballooning as a sport or hobby, there are many technical challenges that must be learned. Balloon pilots are one-in-a-million, and they offer tips at the Albuquerque competition while they take on many precision flying events. And, believe you me, this is far harder than it looks.
For those who are unaware, or just starting on a ballooning career, this mode of transportation is actually the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology known to Man. It was way back in 1783, in France, that the first un-tethered manned flight went into the history books.
Now the balloons, of course, have the ability to be propelled through the air, unlike airships which need wind currents to push them along. The actual make-up of the balloon is quite simple, however. Consisting of a bag called the envelope, the heated air is trapped inside this particular piece of equipment. Beneath the envelope sits the gondola which is able to carry passengers and a source of heat, like an open flame. The heated air inside the envelope gives the balloon its buoyancy, so it can rise up – with the help of the flame – and mystify the onlookers down below.
It’s interesting to note that unmanned hot air balloons were used in China a very long time ago in order to signal military troops on the ground. Which is something that other famous cultures used to better fight the battles that needed to be won.
Our modern balloons have come a long way since then, to say the least. The ones flying now were actually brought to life back in the 1950s. And seeing as that they’re able to fly to extremely high altitudes, there are many risks for the amateur. Not for the faint of heart, they must work hard in order to become an expert at such a difficult craft.
But as the sport opens up more and more, and the competitions and fiestas keep growing across the globe, hot air ballooning is taking its place as being one of the most exciting recreational opportunities out there.
So for those who want to claim the captain’s title, as well as for those who simply want to sit in the gondola and stare out at the amazing landscape below, hot air ballooning is now the ultimate paradise for both.
Until Next Time, Everybody,