Sandy Hook Elementary Balloon Glow
Sandy Hook Elementary Balloon Glow

December 21, 2012

Commemorative Balloon Glow in memory of the Newton, Connecticut Elementary School Shooting

4 – 7 p.m. (arrivals beginning 3 p.m.)

Minimum of 26 balloons; one for each of the victims

Using North Gate entrance

Event Contact: Slade Bogle (505) 261-9605

Call Susan Rice, (505) 768-6050 for more information about events at Balloon Fiesta Park.

Release

12/17/2012Albuquerque named to top lists for travel for 2013
Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau

CONTACT(s):
Megan Mayo Ryan, Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau
office (505) 222-4349; cell (505) 321-7367, mayo@itsatrip.org

Albuquerque named to top lists for travel for 2013

Albuquerque, NM – The experts at Fodor’s Travel announced today that Albuquerque has been named among the Top 25 Places to Go in 2013. Fodor’s editors have chosen Albuquerque as a hot travel destination because of our excellent value for visitors, calling the city an affordable getaway for nature lovers and families. Albuquerque’s visibility on the AMC show “Breaking Bad” has also helped elevate the destination’s profile for travelers.

“The places on our Go List are our ‘must-dos’ for the coming year. Travelers should add these far flung and domestic destinations to their 2013 itinerary,” said Arabella Bowen, Executive Editorial Director at Fodor’s Travel. The cities were selected by Fodor’s senior editorial team who began with an initial list of 75 global travel spots, narrowing them down to the final 25 locales on the Go List after heated internal debate.

The story highlights a slower pace of life and calls out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the ABQ BioPark and Gruet Winery as highlights. Two local lodging boutique properties were called out by the editor – Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm and the Hotel Andaluz – and appropriate for this time of year, Fodor’s mentions the Luminaria Tour at the holidays as a special time to visit Albuquerque. The complete story is available here: http://www.fodors.com/go-list/2013/.

Albuquerque has also been highlighted as one of 20 Awesome Winter Foodie Destinations by Zagat.com again focusing on Los Poblanos. The story, which is available here: http://blog.zagat.com/2012/12/20-awesome-winter-foodie-destinations.html, says “If you haven’t experienced the great Southwest, now is the time and Albuquerque the place to start.”

Just west of Albuquerque, the Acoma Pueblo was also named one of “12 most extreme places in America worth visiting” by BudgetTravel.com and showcased on FoxNews.com. The list is a compilation of longest, coldest, hottest, biggest and oldest. That’s where Acoma “Sky City” Pueblo comes in; it is said to be one of the oldest sites in North America.

For more Albuquerque rankings, visit http://www.itsatrip.org/albuquerque/whats-new/top-ranking.aspx.

These past two days the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association held their annual “Friends and Lovers” February ballooning event.  On neither day was the weather good enough to fly so I thought it would be appropriate to post a blog about the weather and the conditions that generally prevent balloonists from flying.

“Weather” to Fly or Not – That is the Question?

 The Conditions that Will Keep us on the Ground  

 Wind      words to look for in a forecast: gusty, breezy, windy, blustery, small craft warningsstrong wind , high wind warnings

        Wind is the most critical factor in safe ballooning; it effects every phase of a flight. More balloon flights are cancelled due to wind than for any other reason. Balloons fly best in light and stable winds of 4-6 miles per hour. Maximum winds are 8-10 mph. Here are the reasons wind is such an issue:

  •     During inflation the balloon is filled with cold air using a fan. The balloon fabric is just a giant sail, and winds approaching 10 mph make it almost impossible to fill the balloon. The wind will cave the side of the balloon in and the resulting sail effect places tremendous loads on both the fabric and the basket. These forces can be 3-10 tons depending on the size of the balloon. The balloon will roll around, sometimes violently. It is tied off to keep even a gentle breeze from causing it to drag downwind, but we have seen a gust cause the balloon to drag the trailer and van it was tied to across the grass! Pretty impressive to watch – not much fun!

  •     Strong winds in flight can take the balloon farther than the pilot has room to fly. Since a balloons flight path and the distance it will travel is dictated solely by the wind’s speed and direction, this can be an issue if high winds carry the balloon into areas that are unsuitable for a landing. Such areas include: metropolitan areas, large expanses of forest, restricted airspace, and large bodies of water. All of these are factors in our immediate flying area.

  •     Lastly, there is the landing. A balloon’s speed across the ground will be the speed of the wind it is flying in. High wind speeds mean that the pilot needs a larger area to land in. A balloon relies on the friction of the basket dragging along the ground to come to a stop. In a high wind landing, you are trying to stop 3-10 tons, depending upon the size of the balloon,  without brakes – the basket will skip, drag and bounce along the ground. It will eventually layover on its side while continuing to drag along the ground. Again, impressive just not much fun.

Winds Aloft

        The winds on the surface are just one of our concerns. We have to think three dimensionally and consider what the wind is doing at altitude as well. This is perhaps the most confusing aspect for our passengers. There is not even a hint of a breeze and your flight has just been cancelled due to wind, how come? We look at winds at the surface (the wind you can feel) and the winds at 1 to 9,000 feet.  We are not going to go to 9,000 feet, but it tells us if we might encounter issues such as wind shear, turbulence, or strong surface winds later on. Even if there are no winds to speak of at the surface, the winds aloft may drive our decision not to fly. Winds aloft of 18-20 knots or 20 miles per hour can be sufficient to reschedule a flight.

Poor Visibility         words to look for in a forecast: foggy, hazy, misty                               

        How far can we see? Our aircraft are designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as Visual Flight Rules (VFR) certified. That means we must have a certain amount of visibility to legally fly. The visibility must be 1 to 3 miles, depending on where we are flying. If we don’t have it, we can’t fly!

Rain & Storms  words to look for in a forecast: thunderstorms, rain, chance of showers or storms

picture of lightning

        The decision not to fly in rain or storms seems a simple one – of course we don’t! What isn’t so simple is why your flight may be cancelled when no storm or rain actually happens in the area. We must often make our decision based on a forecast. Despite the many advances in weather prediction, forecasting remains an imprecise science. We often refer to forecasts as “horoscopes with numbers.” Our idea of long range forecasting is 4 hours and we don’t place a great deal of faith in them! Forecasts for our flying area are limited to the Double Eagle Airport and the Albuquerque International Airport (Sunport) . We are practically equal distance between the two and what happens in our flying area may be very different from the forecast – both good and bad!

        Storms can be significant events to any type of aircraft, but a balloon is perhaps the most weather sensitive aircraft there is. An airplane can turn and run from a storm whereas a balloon is drawn into a storm. The winds will accelerate and head toward a building storm and flow out of a decaying storm. These gust fronts can occur 75 to 100 miles away from the actual storm and create winds that are dangerous to a balloon. Once again, it’s the wind! If storms are forecast or there are storms within 100 miles we will reschedule flights.

Temperature

        Since hot air balloons fly by changing the temperature inside the balloon with heat, it stands to reason that outside air temperature is going to affect balloon flights, and it does! When the air in the balloon is heated, it becomes hotter and thus less dense than the surrounding outside air. This hotter air is “lighter” and the balloon will float upward. The more heat, the higher up you go. A balloon will fly when its temperature is around 140 degrees above the outside air temperature (generally). So, the colder it is outside, the less heat it takes to fly and conversely, the hotter it is outside, the more heat it will take to fly. Can’t wrap your head around this? Here is an example:

Outside Air Temperature    +   Heat it Takes to Fly (140 F)  =   Temperature Inside the Balloon
    Cold day of 30 degrees F     + 140 F                   =  170 degrees inside the balloon
Hot  day of 95 degrees F     + 140 F                   =  235 degrees inside the balloon (more heat if it’s hot out)

        This is of particular concern to companies operating smaller balloons. The smaller the balloon, the less lift capacity it will have and the hotter it must be inside the balloon for it to fly. The maximum continuous operating temperature for most hot air balloons is 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That leaves little margin for safety and for maneuvering on a very hot day.

Courtesy fun-flying.com

We would like to welcome you to the Ballooning Capital of the World web site.  The Ballooning Capital is located in the greater Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA area including area communities like Rio Rancho.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta  is the world’s largest hot air balloon festival and takes place each October.  During the balloon festival you will see literally hundreds of balloons.  The event is considered to be the most photographed event in the world.  Guests of the event are allowed to mingle amongst the balloons and possibly even to help the crews.

There are more resident hot air balloonists in the local area than anywhere else in the world.  The ideal conditions and the growth of the sport have attracted many people to the Albuquerque area.  Hardly a day goes by without a balloon launch, weather permitting.

Albuquerque has a unique climatological feature called the “box”.  The Sandia Mountain to the east blocks the sun from heating the ground, and as a result, the air near the ground is cooler and flows to the south, and 600-700 feet up, the warmer air flows to the north, allowing the balloon pilot to launch and land in nearly the same spot, if not in fact, the same spot.

Another great activity is called balloon glow.  This is the glow from the balloon when the hot propane-powered flames light up the balloon, and because of the balloon’s size, can be seen from a long distance.  Several times during the year there are actual balloon glow events during which the balloons are on display, but aren’t launched.

This web site has been created to tell the world about what is going on here and we welcome your comments and pictures.   Our host is a photographer so there will be many unique photos not found elsewhere plus photos contributed by other photographers.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you back again!