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OverviewHot Air Balloon Team Report

The Kentucky Derby Great Balloon Race

The Kentucky Derby Great Balloon Race was held this past weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.

The pilots’ master briefing was held at 2:30 Thursday afternoon. We were instructed to meet down at the water front around 5:30 for a supplemental briefing. It was a clear but windy evening with the winds out of the east. The decision was made to inflate the balloons. We were blown and tossed about by the wind, but a good crowd was on hand at the water front and we passed out a lot of balloon cards.

The next morning, on Friday, the pilot briefing was at 5:00 AM. Rain was falling along with some lighting, so the rush hour race was canceled.

On Friday at noon, we had a position draw for the glow spots for the big televised glow scheduled at 9:00 PM. The winds throughout the day had reached a top speed of 26 MPH. The balloon glow was to be televised live from 9:00-10:00 PM. By 8:45, the winds were down to 4 mph and the show was on. The spot we selected would allow the balloon to be seen from the helicopters in the air from two different directions. It was a super night for a glow. 63,000 people managed to fit into the fair grounds to see the balloons. We managed to pass out all of the balloon cards we had on hand.

Saturday morning was Kentucky Derby Great Balloon Race day. Our pilot briefing was once again held at 5:00 AM. The word this time was that we are a go for flight!

We drove out to Bowman field. The field of 31 balloons was ready to race. This was to be a hare and hound race. Just before 7:00 AM, we started our inflation.

A very good crowd was on hand for this early morning flight. The surface wind was light and out of the south. Only 200’ up, the winds switched around to be out of the west and were at 29 mph. The hare balloon flew about 7.5 miles to the east and landed in Tom Sawyer State Park. The “X” target was laid out on the RC airplane track. Around half of the balloons scored on the target. The Jasper Engines & Transmissions balloon had a very good throw on the target.

The Awards Banquet was held at noon to honor all of the teams. The Jasper Engines & Transmissions Balloon was honored with a first place finish, beating out the United States Champion and the current world champion. By winning first place, the Jasper Engines and Transmissions Balloon receives an automatic entry into next year’s race.

As the winning balloon team, we have been asked to participate in the Pegasus parade to be held this Thursday.

Warren D Smith


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