Welcome Sunrise: America's Challenge Teams in Texas
Posted 9:00 AM (1500z)
The nine teams competing in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s America’s Challenge race for gas balloons are approaching their 12-hour mark aloft, and already they are east of Dalhart, Tx. Folks in Dalhart are relatively used to seeing the America’s Challenge balloons over their town, as the winds out of Albuquerque take the balloons in their direction every few years.
So far, the teams seem to be following the course several of the pilots described to Balloon Fiesta Live last night – to use fast mid-level winds (around 10,000-12,000 feet) forecast over the central U.S. to streak towards the Great Lakes. The trajectories released to the pilots before the race suggested flights deep into Canada, perhaps as far as Hudson’s Bay, could be a possibility.
The spectacular video of sunrise over Eastern New Mexico and West Texas was shot this morning by Christian Wagner and Thomas Lewetz from Austria (Team 8). When you view this video, note the balloon’s altitude (quite low for a gas flight), and the speed with which the balloon is moving over the ground; the balloons have been traveling at more than 30 mph (43.8 kph). The square panel hanging down below the balloon is a solar collector used to help power the balloon’s avionics and other equipment.
Sunrise is welcome to the teams for a couple of reasons. As the sun heats the balloon, the hydrogen gas inside expands, providing lift. So the pilots get a “free ride” to the altitude of their choice, they can gain height without expending ballast. Also, those are long cold nights aloft, and the sun’s warmth does wonders for the pilots’ spirits.
As the race continues, you can follow live tracking and receive regular updates from the race Command Center 24/7 at the America’s Challenge website https://balloonfiesta.com/Americas-Challenge-Live. On the website, by clicking on a balloon, you can view an altitude profile of the balloon’s track, and can view as many as four teams’ data simultaneously. To follow the race on a mobile device, download the YB Tracking app (it’s free!) onto your favorite mobile device and subscribe to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (also free).
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