ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A welcome green flag. Clear blue skies. And hundreds of brightly-colored balloons lifting off for a morning of hot-air adventure.
It was a picture-perfect morning for flying at Balloon Fiesta Park Tuesday as pilots taking part in dawn patrol and the scheduled mass ascension launched into calm Albuquerque Box wind conditions.
A box is a wind pattern in which lower level winds move in one direction, while upper level winds move in the other. This allows balloon pilots to stay aloft over an area for a longer period of time.
Some pilots took advantage of this pattern to fly mostly above the park Tuesday morning, before landing on the field not far from where they took off.
Off the field, more than a dozen pilots taking part in the flying competition launched their balloons from a lot at Journal Center near Paseo and Jefferson NE. They hoped to drift northward to Balloon Fiesta Park where the competition events were held.
After being delayed for two days, the nine balloons taking part in the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race launched from Balloon Fiesta Park Monday night. The America’s Challenge is a distance race for balloons filled with hydrogen instead of hot air.
All of the balloons taking part in the race are drifting to the northeast, and eight of the nine had cleared the New Mexico border by daybreak Tuesday.
Race officials have switched to new satellite tracking system this year and are providing live tracking of the challenge.
After Saturday’s opening-day mass ascension was canceled due to fog, flying conditions improved, and each of the morning events since have lifted off as planned.
Slide show: Balloon Fiesta through the years: Pictures from 1972-1991
Balloon Fiesta 2019 by Albuquerque Journal on Exposure