I want to crew
"Who are all those people
around the balloon?" Well the answer to that one is the ones who look like they
know what they are doing, are the crew. The rest, milling around with cameras
are friends, family, passengers and interested bystanders, including the pilot.
How does the balloon get in the air in the first place? That's where
the ground crew (or retrieve, two names, same job) come in. We do most of the
setting up of the balloon under the pilot's beady eye, laying out the envelope
(the big brightly coloured thing), getting cold air into it, making sure
everything required goes in the basket, especially the passengers, and then
helping the balloon safely on it's way. Once that is done, we take the
vehicle and follow the
balloon for an hour or so.
Most balloons have a crew of between 3 and
6 people. On privately owned balloons we are invariably volunteers, it is how
we work off the stresses of the week, and get together to have a good time with
a great bunch of people.
A balloon crew is like a family, we come in
all shapes and sizes, our ages range from youths to folks well into their 80's.
The only special skills needed are common sense and a willingness to lump and
hump. Some tasks require some physical strength and a fair amount of physical
co-ordination, but don't worry, there are even more tasks that do not. I have
an 8-year-old son and a 4 year-old daughter who both help with everything they
are able to do. But they do
help, between playing at the most awkward
time and place, really!!
Every task the crew performs has a reason why
it is done and how, once you understand that reason, it all makes perfect
sense. The trick is to find out before you need to know. The
have a very reasonably
priced Crew Training Manual available for its; members and there is an
manual developed in the States that gives a very good introduction. Remember we
have different laws that impact on how we retrieve the balloon once it has
landed. Crewing is 90% common sense, and 10% training.
How do you become part of a retrieve crew?
- You can look up in the sky and follow the next
balloon you see until it lands. At some stage you should come across the
retrieve crew parked carefully on the side of the road. Thrust a piece of paper
with your name address and telephone number into any available hand. When you
tell them you are interested crewing you will probably be directed to the
pilot. Most balloons have a regular crew but some will be only too happy to get
you as crew member. Failing that they might be able to put you in contact
with someone who can find you a home. If you meet up with them at the landing
site please keep off private land and approach them as they leave.
I hope this has whetted your appetite and good luck
getting involved in this most rewarding sport.
Just follow this link if you want to help