MONTPELIER: July 11, 2014: Montpelier will be hosting the Montpelier Area Chamber of Commerce 2014-1st Annual “Montpelier Balloon Festival and Bean Days” celebration beginning July 12 with the “Pride of Montpelier Pageant,” followed by events running from Thursday, July 17 through Sunday July 20 in the downtown area and at the Williams County Fairgrounds.
A new event this year and the first of its kind for Montpelier, the Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the 1st Annual Balloon Festival, and Montpelier resident and Balloon Pilot Greg Lee and his ground crew provided a media set up and familiarization with the equipment that will be brightening Montpelier’s skies for two days. Assisting Greg at this evening’s demonstration was Ryan Stuck, Mike Mercer along with his son Korban Mercer, Julie Lee and Jason Luke from the CoC Festival Planning Committee.
The entire balloon fit snuggly in the bed of Greg’s pick-up truck, and consists of a pilot/passenger basket, the nylon balloon, an inflation fan along with the necessary parts to assemble the basket and balloon. The balloon’s burner (which has an output of 15 million BTUs) came packed separately and is assembled above the balloon’s basket. The balloon itself is a nylon material, which consists of over 1000 yards of fabric, and has a protective Nomex flame resistance bottom portion, which protects the lower material on the balloon from the heat of the burner.
Full assembly of the Balloon, from in the truck to completed and ready to fly, normally takes from 15 – 20 minutes with an experienced crew. Prior to assembly, the pilot of the Balloon will release what is known as a “Pie Ball,” which is a helium filled balloon used to measure and gage the direction of the wind. This will determine the layout for assembly of the balloon, with the top heading in the direction of the wind. The first step in assembly is to prepare the basket with its support poles and set up of Kevlar Ropes affixing the basket to the balloon. As an additional safety measure, the basket is built with steel cables that also affix to the balloon. Once the basket is assembled, it is laid on its side and the balloon is rolled out from its storage bag in the wind direction. Inflation of the balloon once laid out is accomplished with the use of a “Cold Pack” fan, which fills the balloon with cool air and inflates the balloon on the ground. During this process, the pilot will carefully inspect the balloon during inflation to ensure there are no holes, and that all guide lines used to operate the balloon are straight and untangled. The pilot also ensures the “parachute” covering the opening of the balloon at the top properly aligns in place. The parachute on top of the balloon controls the release of air from the balloon and lowers the balloon to the ground. Once the balloon has been properly inflated and upright, the pilot will light the burner unit and release hot air into the balloon, allowing lift off and enabling flight.
Hot Air Balloons are able to gain flight once fully assembled and charged with hot air. In order to launch, pilots must have a ground wind speed no greater than 10 MPH. For flight, the pilot has at his control in the basket four 10 gallon propane cylinders, along with the pilot control panel.
Balloon pilots are certified and must undergo training in order to receive certification. Additionally, the process for pilot certification is closely supervised by the Federal Aviation Administration and an individual may attain a “Balloon Pilot License” and if the pilot will be providing commercial services, a Commercial Pilot License” is required as well.
The 1st Annual Montpelier Balloon Festival will feature 10 Hot Air Balloons, with passenger rides offered throughout the festival at a cost of $250.00 per rider. Additionally, 1 Balloon will be designated to provide tethered ascending rides, which will cost $10.00 per passenger.