Hot Air Balloon Championships
In the first week of August, our campus – Tvind International School Centre – hosted the Danish Championships in Hot Air Ballooning. At the same time, the event was also the Swedish championships, and Nordic Cup in Hot Air Ballooning.
Fifteen pilots and their crews from Sweden and Denmark participated in the event, which attracted a lot of attention from the local area. Since our hot air balloon team been active in the sport for years, and Tvind successfully hosted the championships in 2016, we were asked by the Danish Balloon Union to arrange the championships again this year. So, we did.
by Anna Hoas, media crew
A joint venture crew
Hot Air Balloon Team Tvind is a joint venture between PTG Youth College, DNS · The Necessary Teacher Training College and two care homes on the campus. A balloon team needs a pilot, a navigator, a crew of three people and a driver. In a balloon competition, the pilot and navigator will fly the balloon, and the crew will retrieve the balloon by following it in a four-wheel drive vehicle – we have a Land Rover.
Carpenter and practical teacher Palle Olsen is the pilot, and Bjarne, who is a teacher at the care homes is the navigator. Three students from PTG and two care homes, Rickardt, Kidtlak and Thor, are crewing, which means that they are responsible for preparing the basket with its gas burner and the envelope (“the balloon”) so it is ready for take-off.
Together with the driver of the Land Rover, Mantvydas from DNS, they are also responsible for keeping track of the balloon while it is in the air, so that they are ready to receive it when it lands, and sometimes assist with the landing, for instance if they are landing in a field full of manure, or in a marshy area – then the crew will drag it out to a more hospitable area. After the landing the balloon needs to be packed into the trailer, before they can return to base.
Not for the faint hearted
Often, the crew also need to track and retrieve GPS equipment which has been sent up in small balloons (to measure wind directions), and these devices later land in strange places, like lakes and corn fields. They give out a loud “beep”, so the crew can find them. The crew only has the approximate GPS coordinates of where it landed, so sometimes it takes a bit of perseverance to locate it. However, it is worthwhile to do it, since they are quite expensive.
Quite often the crew also needs to find and secure markers that have been dropped from the balloon. This is an important task, because the marker will determine how many points the pilot will get for the flight. A lost marker means zero points. Therefore, the pilot depends on a skilful and committed crew on the ground to have good results.
To be part of a hot air balloon team is hard work, especially during competitions. Morning briefings are normally very early in the morning, an hour before dawn, and evening flights are finished around 21 pm. Then the crew needs to pack the balloon, drive back to the base at Tvind, refuel gas, and finally have something to eat. Then off to bed for a few hours of sleep, then rise and shine again at 4 am. During a week-long competition, the crew will only get 3 – 4 hours’ sleep in between flights.
Crewing and practical pedagogy
At the moment, we have two balloons in Tvind: the smaller black “racer” balloon which is used for competitions, and the bigger “windmill coloured” Tvind Balloon which is used for flights with passengers.
Hot Air Ballooning is an exciting activity, yet it is not overly complicated to learn how to assemble the basket, with burner and navigation equipment. Therefore, it is an activity well suited for the students we have at the care homes on the campus. Students who need something meaningful to do, which doesn’t require a lot of reading and memorising to obtain a certificate (like a driver’s license) but something you can learn by doing.
New students start as apprentices on the balloon team, doing the very simple stuff, like holding the mouth open when the balloon is inflated, and then little by little they learn more and more complicated tasks, like fastening the “parachute” at the top of the balloon, or learning how to use the navigation program in the laptop which is in the landrover.
The students also experience the joys of belonging to a team. A team where everybody knows what to do, and in which order, and who pull together to get the balloon into the air before the deadline. And who stick together in difficult situations where you need to be creative to solve an issue. Like getting the balloon out from an inaccessible area. Students who have been part of the balloon team never forget it.
So how did it end?
We are happy to announce that after many years of ending up in 3rd or 4th place, Hot Air Balloon Team Tvind with pilot Palle Olsen are DANISH CHAMPIONS!
With hard work, the advantage of knowing the area around Ulfborg well, and a little bit of luck, the hot air balloon team succeeded to win this year. The team was congratulated a lot by the other pilots and teams who have a great deal of respect for the work and the dedication we put into not only the hot air ballooning, but into our school work in general. “Well deserved! Well done! Congratulations!” was the general feeling at the prize ceremony.
People in Ulfborg have learned a lot about hot air ballooning this year. They have followed the flights closely, they have rooted for their local team, and they are of course very proud to have a Danish Champion in their town.
FAI World Championships in Gross-Siegharts, Austria and beyond
The hot air balloon team participated in the hot air balloon championships which took place in Austria in August of 2018. It was a great experience for the team, who for the first time met the “true professionals” of hot air ballooning. The team will participate in competitions whenever they have the opportunity to do so, thus providing DNS students and others to have unforgettable experiences.
If you are interested in following the endeavours of Hot Air Balloon Team Tvind, you can follow their Facebook page.
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