Ruby Balloon Floating over Norfolk
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I want to crew

The Team "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 retrieve 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 BBAC have a very reasonably priced Crew Training Manual available for its; members and there is an on-line 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.