Launching a hot-air balloon 101

Helena Mieras (left) helps inflate the Indigo Dream with guidance from Crew Chief Andi Babcock of Albuquerque. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Voices rang out against the crisp morning air as colorful hot air balloons buoyed to life, reaching toward the vast forever of the sky: the annual Balloons Over Angel Fire had begun.

I awoke shortly after the break of dawn on June 15, yawning away sleep and looking forward to the oncoming day.  My mind swirled as I thought about the possibility of helping out a ballooning crew.

My aunt, [Chronicle owner] Ellen Miller-Goins, and I arrived at Angel Fire airport with our eyes on the sky, thinking of how it was a perfect day to fly, with clear skies and a light breeze.   

We moved toward a large group of people and heard a voice calling through the crowd for volunteers to help crew a balloon. We wasted no time in volunteering ourselves.

Upon meeting the crew we were given gloves and safety instructions. We listened attentively as the inherent danger of hot air ballooning was described. Albuquerque pilot Charity Blanchard gave instructions as to where we could walk and touch, what we could and could not do, ensuring a thorough understanding of how to stay safe.

Next we set about setting up the 800 pound Indigo Dream hot air balloon. Crew chief Andi Babcock, also of Albuquerque, assigned jobs. I was designated to hold open one side of the envelope as it was first filled with cold air, and then hot. The process was strenuous, requiring a long amount of time in which I held my arms up, pulling the envelope open.

The cold air fill was tiring, but not nerve-wracking in any way. 

Following the hot air fill, the crew braced itself against the basket as the balloon began to lift off the ground. Once the path above was clear we let the balloon go, watching as it rose through the air, adding to the vibrancy already filling the sky.   

Editor’s note: Helena Mieras of Questa will be a senior at Moreno Valley High School in the coming school year. Along with classmate Jetta Breen and nine other students, she attended the New Mexico Press Association Foundation’s High School Journalism Workshop June 10–13 at the University of New Mexico campus.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story implied Helena was in danger. However, pilot Charity Blanchard and her crew gave all volunteers a safety briefing in which they were told “if at any time they were uncomfortable they were to step back from the balloon and/or give the cut sign to the fan.” We apologize for the misrepresentation.

Indigo Dream Pilot Charity Blanchard assembles the basket and supports with help from volunteer and experienced pilot Tom Schroeder, and pilot-in-training Jason Babcock. (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Charity Blanchard explains the safety rules to her volunteers. (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Jason Babcock adjusts the fan. (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Helena Mieras holds up the Indigo Dream as a fan fills it with air. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
And we have lift-off (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Andi Babcock and Charity Blanchard take off.(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

Balloons fly Friday, Saturday and Sunday doused