We're quite proud of our Balloonmeister at Carolina BalloonFest. Sam Parks not only oversees all of the balloon pilots and crew and flying activities at our event, but will have just come off serving as Balloonmeister at the very large Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That event begins tomorrow and as you can imagine, being responsible for the safe launches of over 500 balloons is a job reserved for the best of the best.
Sam puts that same expertise to work in Statesville. He heads up our local Flying Events Committee, which is comprised of local balloon pilots, crew, and enthusiasts who work to make sure the ballooning part of our festival is a great experience for pilots, crew, and our spectators.
Sam became involved in ballooning the way most pilots do....by serving as a member of a chase crew. These are the folks who help get the balloon inflated, then follow it to its landing spot where they help take it down and pack it up, We'll talk more about these folks in a later blog.
Sam and his wife Winna live in Statesville and own and operate Parks Heating & Air. Sam is not only a hot air balloon pilot, but flies gas balloons as well.
We'll try to keep an eye on Sam as he is at work at Fiesta, but until then here is a picture of Sam the pilot in his balloon, flying at a festival this past weekend in Madisonville, TN. Yes, he's been quite a busy man and will continue to be through the end if October. When you see him at Carolina BalloonFest, give him a smile and thank him for all he does for our community and for representing Statesville so well in the ballooning community around the world.
It's just about a month away and much activity has already gone on, is going on, and will go on to make this year's Carolina BalloonFest a success. As many of you know, this event is predominantly run by volunteers, who love hot air balloons, our community, and/or making money for our local charities. If you'd like to get involved, it's not too late....check out the link on our website.
It's definitely time for you to start planning if you are going to attend. Have you bought your tickets yet? We certainly recommend you do so in advance. Not only do early birds get the closest parking place (those without advance tickets must park at our satellite lots and take a bus in), but we've got a maximum capacity point. Once we reach that capacity, we can't let another body in.....even someone as charming as you. Our event regularly reaches capacity and now sells out regularly....so don't be left on the outside.
Do you want to take a ride? Our pilots are busy booking rides already. You can find their contact information and pictures of their balloons on our website. All balloons and pilots are not alike, so you'll want to find the one that is best for you. It's quite a thrill to ascend to the sky, surrounded by other balloons, and the crowd waving at you from below. Are you afraid of heights? A secret....many of our balloon pilots are, too. Look out instead of down, and we think you'll be just fine. Even with the hubbub of the festival, it's a peaceful time.
Rides this year are $250 per person. Yes, we know that is a lot of money. Why does it cost so much, you wonder? Well, let's see if we can explain. The pilots who are selling rides must not only have their private's pilot license (all of our pilots flying at this event must have that), but they also must be licensed as a commercial pilot. Both of these licenses require they spend many hours attending classroom sessions, taking hours of tests (written and oral), do training with other commercial pilots, and finally tested and reviewed by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examiner. Even after being licensed they must have their flying checked by other commercial pilots on a regular basis.
Then a pilot giving rides must have a balloon. A well maintained balloon, that passes an annual inspection. The cost of balloons varies, just as the cost of cars varies (from basic to super fancy). You can pretty much assume the cost of a car, if you are trying to figure out the cost of a balloon. Like cars, they also must have that balloon properly insured. They need propane to fuel it (provided at our festival by our sponsor Energy United). They need instruments to help them fly, and most also use iPads and other electronics to do everything from checking weather to checking out the local map (though some still use paper.) They need a vehicle to transport the balloon in, and to chase the balloon in flight so they can pick them up when they land. They need chase crew...and chase crews often need hydration and snacks. They need walkie talkies or other devices to communicate with their crews. Cell phones are also often used, even by the chase crew to track the balloon in flight. So, you can see....much is needed and required before they can give you that $250 flight. The smiles after the ride? Worth a million!
As for you, talk to your pilot before the flight and let them know of any limitations you may have. They may ask you some questions you may think are rather personal (like your weight!) The questions have a purpose.....they want to make sure their balloon is right for you and they feel equipped to be at their best as your pilot.
We almost always have a few proposals on flights at Carolina BalloonFest. Tell the pilot in advance, and they will do their best to help make it the experience of your dreams. We recommend you be pretty confident that they're going to say yes....or it can be quite an uncomfortable ride home. (Yes, our pilots have stories!) We also have had weddings both in the balloon (some of our pilots can even perform the ceremony) and on the ground, with the happy couple flying away afterwards. One great thing about ballooning....we get to see a lot of dreams come true.
For those who may be on a strict budget, or who want go test the waters before committing to a flight, tethered rides will be available (weather permitting). This is a great way to experience flight at a much lesser cost.
Until festival time, we'll try to give you some great tips and knowledge that will help you understand a bit more about ballooning, allow you to meet our pilots and staff, help you move from spectator to participant, and maybe even be entertained by a few tales from some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. We're excited about what's ahead.....and would love to share it with you,
For the sixteenth year in a row, the streets of Downtown Statesville will come alive with the speed, color and crashes of the Statesville Criterium Bike Race being held on Friday, August 5th. This event, organized by Charlotte Sports Cycling, is one of several criterium races involved in the Giordana Crossroads Classic being held this year in several cities across the Piedmont of North Carolina. The races will begin at 6:00 pm and get faster as the sun starts to set with the feature Pro race highlighting the evening at 9:00 pm.
In between the races, watch the 2016 Trike Races brought to you by D’Laney’s Sports Bar & Grill. These races will start at the square and end in front of D’Laney’s at 114 W. Broad Street. The trike races will run at 6:35 pm, 7:20 pm, 8:05 pm, and 8:55 pm. We encourage spectators to come out for the night with the whole family, grab dinner in downtown, and check out the fast action of the World’s top cyclists. Inflatable rides for the kids will be provided at no charge on East Broad Street. Please mark your calendars for this great downtown event. If you have any questions, please call us at 704-878-3436 for more information.
Join us for a fun night in downtown Statesville... ask us about volunteer openings! Enjoy a special display and balloon glow after dark with pilots Marc Klinger and Daniel Sasser!
Statesville, NC (8/1/2016) - The organization of National Balloon Rally Charities, Inc. is deeply saddened to learn of a 16 person fatal hot air balloon accident in Lockhart, Texas.
"We extend our hearts, thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of all people involved," said Pressly Mattox, Chairman of Carolina BalloonFest (CBF). "We are members of a small hot air balloon community and this is a difficult time for our ballooning family.”
National Balloon Rally Charities will not comment about the specifics of the accident since it is currently under a National Transportation and Safety Board investigation. Nothing is more important than the safety of our pilots and passengers during the weekend of Carolina BalloonFest. We anticipate learning from this investigation and will certainly use any forthcoming information to uphold and continue our impressive safety record.
"As a member of Balloon Federation of America, we intend to continue monitoring news and official reports. We are committed to ongoing, continuous improvement and seek ways to improve safety during our hot air balloon festival,” said Mattox.
Chairman, National Balloon Rally Charities, Inc.
If you see a pilot looking at their iPad or phone, chances are they are looking at a weather app. Balloonists pay a lot of attention to weather. Walk by a crowd of them at Carolina BalloonFest, and if they are not talking about it then it has been discussed in the last few minutes. We understand it is a great mystery to people and we want to try to help. So....I got a little help from a special guest to give you a little weather and ballooning lesson.
Duncan Dunavent is a special member of our local ballooning community and most weekends you can find him helping crew hot air balloons. He has also attended the Great Eastern Balloon Camp for several summers, as well as a weather camp. Duncan is 14 and a student at the South Iredell IB School. If you see Duncan around the festival this weekend and have ballooning questions, I am sure he will be happy to help answer them. But in the meantime, here's some thoughts on the weather from Duncan!
Weather For Ballooning
Most people love to see hot air balloons at the festival and will come at any part of the day expecting to see them. However if you get there at 2:00, there will be no balloons taking off to fly. Did you ever wonder why?
Balloons only fly in this part of the country during the early morning, right after sunrise, and just about 2 hours before sunset. During the rest of the day the sun causes the atmosphere to become unstable. The winds will also probably be too high and unstable and the balloons need calm winds.
At Carolina BalloonFest, our Balloonmeister Sam Parks has the final say as to whether it is safe for balloons to fly. Even though the wind may be calm on the BalloonFest field, Sam and his team are watching how they look higher up and all around the area. It may be calm at 500 feet, but breezy at 3,000.
The balloons also cannot fly with rain around the area. Though it may be sunny on the BalloonFest field, it might be raining close by. The FAA will not allow a balloon to take off with a thunderstorm or rain within 10 miles of the field. Most pilots prefer that a thunderstorm be at least 75-100 miles away and not moving towards them.
Under FAA regulations (not just for BalloonFest, but across the entire USA) balloons must have a minimum of 3 miles visibility. This means if it is too foggy, they also cannot fly.
While the Balloonmeister has the overall say as to whether balloons can fly at the festival, most pilots have their own personal limits. Even if the Balloonmeister opens the field and allows balloons to fly, it is always the pilot's final decision as to whether they will fly their balloon.
The Balloonmeister and his team of experts spend a lot of their time at the festival tracking the weather. If the weather is looking iffy at the pilot's briefing (a meeting where they talk about flying conditions), then they put things on hold and continue to look at the weather before they make a final decision. Watch the flagpole. If the yellow flag is up, there is a delay as they watch conditions. If the green flag goes up, it means pilots are allowed to fly. If the pink flag goes up, the pilots gather for another meeting. If the flag is red, the balloons will not be able to fly.
If the pilots cannot fly, they try to see if there is anything else they can do that day. If the winds on the ground are low and stable, they may be able to tether the balloons. If it is night, may be able to do a balloon glow.
Pilots love to fly their balloons, so they are often the most disappointed when conditions don't allow for it to happen. You can be assured of this...if it is safe to fly, they will be ready to launch!
On The Breeze ~
Festival news about