INDIANOLA, Iowa- The annual National Balloon Classic is well underway in Indianola.
No better way to experience what balloon flight is all about than to spend some time in the early morning as balloon crews do competitive events.
“The first flight they're going to fly in and they want to try to drop two markers as far apart as possible within the field that we've given them,” said Race Director Bill Clemons. “At that point they have four different targets they can choose.”
The pilots have a morning meeting during which they are briefed on the tasks they are challenged with. The biggest discussion is the weather.
“It’s a terrific morning to fly, but the direction the balloons are going is changing constantly, so it makes it a challenge to figure out where they want to go.”
Joel Worthington flies the WHO-HD logo balloon, one of the larger balloons by size in Iowa. He got the bug for hot air while helping to crew for pilots at the National Balloon Classic.
“In 2003 we signed up to crew at the National Balloon Classic, that was in August. By October 2003 we owned a balloon,” said Worthington.
He got a commercial license in 2004, and has been flying ever since.
Asked about his favorite time to fly, Worthington said he prefers a cold winter day.
“The air is more dense, so you get far more lift for a given temperature,” he said. “On a 90 degree day I can pick up 500 pounds of passenger, in the winter I can carry 1,000 pounds.”
As to the target drop competitions, Worthington does not worry about those too much.
“I’m not normally a big competitor, but if we fly over the target, we’ll take it."