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How hot air balloon pilots prepare for lift-off in Mesquite

Posted at 10:24 AM, Jan 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-30 14:13:57-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Mesquite Gaming hosted its annual Mesquite Balloon Festival over the weekend.

The festival kicked off at 7:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday with a balloon launch at the Oasis parking lot. There was also a nightly candlestick glow at 6 p.m. where the balloons created a light show.

To start the ceremony, the “balloonmesiter” gave a weather briefing to hot air balloon pilots and crew members from all over the western U.S.

Pilots checked the weather conditions by using a helium balloon called a pie ball.

“As the balloon goes up, it will demonstrate to the pilots what will happen to the actual balloon once we start going up,” said Josh Lewis, a licensed hot air balloon pilot from Utah.

Lewis has been in the balloon business since 2009. It’s a hobby outside of his full-time job and says the balloon, called an envelope, is 65 to 75 feet tall with a mass of about 6,000 lbs.

Pilots get their balloons to fly by using propane tanks to fill the balloon with hot air.

“Once the temperature inside and the lift overcomes gravity, you’re free-floating and just off enjoying life,” Lewis said.

Once you’re flying, there’s no steering. Your direction is determined by the wind. Pilots can only determine if they’re going up or down.

“I can pull the parachute on my vent line and let a little bit of heat out of the balloon and that lets me settle,” Lewis explained.

The whole process is a lot of work, but Lewis says it’s a labor of love.

“Just enjoying, trying to spread the love, and spread some happiness to people,” Lewis added.