“…Taos skies are filled with dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons lifting into the clear, cold dawn of a Taos Mountain sunrise”

Every year on the last full weekend in October, as the trees in the high country surrounding historic Taos erupt into a painter’s canvas of oranges, reds, ambers and yellows, even more color is added to the vista as the Taos skies are filled with dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons lifting into the clear, cold dawn of a Taos Mountain sunrise during the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally.Smaller than many such events, the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally typically hosts 35-50 balloons and crew each year.  The rally, primarily because it is smaller and more intimate, has become a popular stop for balloonists, families and crews. The event is very popular with locals, as well.  Parents and kids alike get “up-close and personal” with the balloonists every morning as the crews prepare for launch.

 

Every year on the last full weekend in October, as the trees in the high country surrounding this historic village erupt into a painter’s canvas of oranges, reds, ambers and yellows, even more color is added to the vista as the Taos skies are filled with dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons lifting into the clear, cold dawn of a Taos Mountain sunrise.
 
The Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association, the non-profit group that orgainizes and puts on the event each year, is a small, dedicated group of volunteers who work nearly year-round to make sure the rally is safe, filled with events and experiences and visiting pilots, crews and families are given the best in Taos hospitality.  Local businesses donate thousands of dollars in sponsorship and lodging for the pilots and crews.  Other businesses, artists and crafts people donate prizes, auction items and more.  The Taos Mountain Balloon Rally is truly a Taos community event!
 

This year, 2013 marks the 31st Annual Taos Mountain Balloon Rally. Smaller than many such events, the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally typically hosts 35-50 balloons and crew each year.  The rally, primarily because it is smaller and more intimate, has become a popular stop for balloonists, families and crews. The event is very popular with Taosenos, as well.  Parents and kids alike get “up-close and personal” with the balloonists every morning as the crews prepare for launch.

Red Rock Balloon Rally

“…adventure-seeking balloonists soar above the magnificent canyons where movie producers still film Western epics”

“…adventure-seeking balloonists soar above the magnificent canyons where movie producers still film Western epics”

More than 200 balloons from across the country will take to the skies for the annual Red Rock Balloon Rally near Gallup.

Frequently described as a balloonist’s paradise, a highly prized invitation to this event – the second largest balloon event in the world – offers pilots the opportunity to compete for fine Native American Arts and crafts. You’ll want to have your camera ready as these rainbow colored giants come to life.

The Red Rocks are the cemented sands of a fossilized beach, colored by dissolved iron seeping down from more recent volcanic activity, and then worn smooth by Anasazi residents who carved hand and toe holds into the walls to reach the mesa tops. Now, adventure-seeking balloonists soar above the magnificent canyons where movie producers still film Western epics. This is the only ballooning event where spectators are encouraged to become active participants by joining balloon chase crews. The Red Rock Balloon Rally partners with many area service organizations to help provide funding for local service activities.

The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta© (EBBR) provides an opportunity for balloonists, skippers and sponsors to get together and have fun at Elephant Butte Lake New Mexico.  Additionally, it provides the communities of Elephant Butte, Truth or Consequences and Williamsburg additional visitors after the summer season.

The EBBR traces its history back to the 1970’s when balloonists would come to Elephant Butte for the Mother’s Day weekend, or in some years, the Easter weekend.  The timing of the rally was generally dependent on when the balloonists decided that spring had arrived and it was time to go to “The Lake” and fly.  The “Cloudbouncer” The official monthly publication of the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (AAAA or Quad A) March 1980 issue Announced “The Elephant Butte Mothers day Campout” to be held May 10 and 11.  The March 1981 issue of the “Cloudbouncer” announced “The Greater Mesilla Valley Aerostat Ascension Association Annual Easter Fly-in” would be held April 18 and 19.  In 1989 Oppenheimer industries donated $500 for prize money if the balloonists would fly over the lake to the Champagne Hills subdivision.  The Coast Guard Auxiliary became concerned that balloons flying over the lake might get into trouble and provided five chase boats to ensure safety.  This concern for safety lead to the formation of the EBBR and the Balloon Boat Relay Race© (BBRR).  The BBRR provided a chase boat for each balloon forming a racing team.  The skipper carried the drop marker, baton, for the balloon race out onto the lake.  The balloonists then do a water landing, known as a “Splash and Dash”, to receive the baton and carry it to the designated drop area.  Prizes and/or prize money is then awarded to both the winning pilots and skippers.  The Flying and boating has continued this tradition over the years.  On July 1st 1998 the city of Elephant Butte was incorporated as the 101st city in the State of New Mexico.  The new city chartered their own Chamber of Commerce in September 1999 and one of their first acts was to purchase the rights and copyrights to the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta by unanimous vote.

In 2007, the Chamber decided to stop running the rally, and the rights were transferred to Kevin Cloney and Al Lowenstein

 

Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta  (or EBBR)
1220 Rockrose Rd. NE
Albuquerque  NM  87122
Telephone (505) 821-8558
email: info@ebbr.org

Putrajaya’s hot air balloon fest

By REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
star2@thestar.com.my

Ready to roll: Event director Izzati Khairudin doing her rounds at the fiesta grounds.

The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013, returns to its Millennium Monument grounds for the fifth consecutive year.

A SEA of colourful, multi-shaped hot air balloons has been dotting the Putrajaya skies recently. The balloons, contoured to the shape of a SIM card, Smurf cartoon character, monkey and elephant, have been “floating” around at the 5th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013, which is currently taking place at the Millennium Monument (Monumen Alaf Baru) in Precinct 2, Putrajaya.

Organised by AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) and the Malaysian Sports Aviation Federation (MSAF), the annual four-day event attracts more than 300,000 visitors. Coordinating and arranging every aspect of the mammoth event is no simple task but it’s something the Khairudin family has been doing since the inception of the fiesta in 2009.

Izzati and Atiqah Khairudin – also known as the “balloon sisters”, were barely out of school when their dad roped them in to help with the event.

“We didn’t have a choice!” they say, laughing. “We had been exposed to balloon rides since we were kids so our father put us to work. We call it forced labour!”

The late fiesta chairman and co-founder Khairudin Abd Rani was an avid hot air balloon enthusiast who got interested in the sport when he was studying in the United Kingdom. A civil engineer, he opted for early retirement and started AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd in 1995 to pursue his passion. He brought in instructors from the UK, licensed five local pilots and offered hot air balloon rides to the public.

Eventually, he decided to organise a hot air balloon meet in Malaysia because there was none at that time. The purpose was to show the different hot air balloons, and to put Malaysia on the ballooning map.

Around 20 balloonists, mostly contacts and friends, were invited to participate and they come from all over the world.

Izzati (left) and Atiqah Khairudin, the hot air balloon sisters.

“Dad chose Putrajaya as the location because there was plenty of empty space to land (the balloons). He would oversee the flying section while I was tasked to look after the events side,” says event director and eldest sibling Izzati, 26. “I was thrown in the deep end and didn’t know what to expect in the first year.”

The ground events include tethered hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, remote control balloon demonstrations, zorbing, car simulators, hamster roll games, archery, wall climbing, paintball and a host of other activities.

When it rains or is too windy, the balloons do not fly for safety reasons. The sisters then have to put up with thousands of irate visitors, some of whom have travelled from different states just to see the balloons.

Assistant event director Atiqah, recalls, “One time, I just stood and cried because I couldn’t take the pressure from the crowd! They kept scolding me and I didn’t know what to do. It’s a challenge to deal with the crowd’s tantrums.”

The tethered hot air balloon rides are also cancelled if the weather is bad. Only 300 tickets are available for sale an hour before the five to seven-minute ride. For RM20 per person, the balloon will be hoisted 50-70 feet off the ground.

“Since we don’t pre-sell the tickets, people start queuing up from as early as 4am. It’s crazy!” says Atiqah, 24.

“In case the weather prohibits the balloons from flying, visitors can ask for a refund as tickets sold cannot be carried forward.”

Sadly, Khairudin passed away unexpectedly after a heart attack last December. The family was shocked as he had just returned from playing a game of tennis. They rallied together to continue where he had left off.

“It’s been hard without dad. He handled all the logistics and we handled all the ground affairs. Thankfully, we have the experience from the past fiestas. My mom has taken over my dad’s role, with the help of dad’s friend Mohammad Sobri Saad, who is the fiesta chairman,” relates Izzati.

Another younger sister Hafizah also helps out with the merchandising while the youngest brother has just gotten involved.

Since mom was a former banker, she doubles up as the financial controller of the fiesta. There is a main team of seven youngsters in the office while during the fiesta, more than 50 helpers are on duty.

A unique hot air balloon called Three Wise Monkeys.

“My little sister is very garang and we can see that she is very capable and manages things well. Don’t mess with her,” chuckles Atiqah.

“We’re also lucky because our team is young, with the average age of 23, and willing to learn.”

The first two years was literally a one-man show for Izzati, an accountancy graduate, as her sisters only came onboard in the third year.

“My dad never really gave advice on how to do something. He expected us to learn by example. We miss his lively presence. He had mentioned a few times that ‘After this, I can rest and you can take over’ but we never thought his demise would be so sudden,” recalls Izzati.

As a tribute to him, the fiesta kicked off with a memorial flight on Thursday. Khairudin would be proud of how he has raised his children. Not only are they pleasant and responsible adults, the sisters are also an enterprising lot. Every Ramadhan, they bake cookies for sale.

Izzati says, “My parents make sure everything we do is well earned. There are no easy paths or short-cuts. We’re very loud and bossy and I’m like the quality controller. If something doesn’t meet my expectation, I’m not happy.”

Atiqah rolls her eyes. “Whether at home or in the office, all we do night and day is talk about ballooning! Dad’s passion has become our passion as well.”

While Izzati confesses to being anal about everything, Atiqah says she’s quite the opposite.

Powering up: Getting ready for lift-off.

“In school, my parents would either be called in because Izzati was receiving some award or I was being disciplined. I’ve gotten better now,” smiles Atiqah.

Izzati just got married last year and now, her hubby is also involved, running the coffee stalls at the fiesta.

The first two days of the fiesta have seen the sisters running around madly at the grounds, armed with constantly ringing smart phones.

Stocks had to be replenished, crowds had to be controlled, unauthorised vendors were crashing the events and the media wanted to speak to them …it’s been sheer madness but the girls have taken it in their stride.

“Four days is more than enough. We cannot do more than that. It’s too much,” says Izzati, letting out a sigh.

The fiesta offers lots of exciting activities that will keep the young ones occupied – from colouring competitions and stage performances by cartoon characters to carnival games and rides.

Since it’s now the school holidays, it’s the perfect time to bring children here.

One of the highlights of the fiesta is the night glow event. The balloons are lined up in the launch field, and are lit up according to music. There’s also a “conductor” to ensure the balloons, music and fire are synchronised. The night culminates in a fireworks display.

By Sunday, the fiesta will be over and after a short respite, the Khairudin sisters will start planning again for the next fiesta, which keeps getting bigger. It’s been months of hard work and sleepless nights.

“Right after this, I’m going for a massage,” declares Atiqah, slumping back into a chair.

“Then, we want to get our balloon pilot’s licence. We’d also like to take the fiesta to other states eventually.”

Izzati adds, “We try to improve every year. We’re toying with the idea of organising a balloon music fest like in the west.”

The 5th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013 takes place till March 31. Admission to the fiesta is free but visitors are encouraged to use the KLIA Transit to Putrajaya as KLIA Transit will be offering a 30% discount on ticket rates during the fiesta. From the Putrajaya station, the public can take the Nadi Putra buses which will ferry them directly to the venue. For more information, log on to myballoonfiesta.com.

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!