Once the balloon is stable (if still upright) and passengers have been offloaded, the deflation process starts. The pilot will instruct a crew member to unhook the crown line rope from the uprights and take it downwind of the basket. When signaled, this crew member will pull hard while the pilot pulls the "red" line, opening the deflation parachute. As the balloon deflates, the basket is allowed to tip over.
Once the crown ring is in reach of the ground, another crew member can grasp it and pull hard. At that time the person at the end of the crown line rope can drop the rope and proceed to the crown ring and assist the other crewmember.
Other crewmembers will start the "milking" process, starting just above the basket. Many crews use a metal "squeezer" that goes over the fabric and aids to push the air out of the envelope. While these crewmembers walk the squeezer toward the top of the balloon, the crown crewmembers pull on individual load lines, alternating lines with the goal of gathering the fabric toward the center.
Once the envelope is squeezed out, the pilot will fold the top ropes inside the fabric. The crew will line up on the same side of the envelope about 4 feet apart, starting at the top. When directed, the crew reaches over and gathers the fabric into their arms. With the crew facing the top of the balloon, the pilot will carry the top of the envelope along the side of the balloon with the rest of the crew following him. Two crewmembers will be placed about half-way down the balloon with the envelope bag. The pilot will stuff the envelope into the bag, and then drop back to get more fabric. Each crewmember follows suit, each time going back for more. Once about half full, the envelope bag will be moved closer to the basket.
The pilot will direct the disassembly of the basket and burners. Be careful loading the equipment as envelopes can weight 200-400 pounds, and baskets may tip the scales at 500 pounds or more.
Pack Up Tips:
- Be careful with snagging and loose items (lanyards, phones, sharp edges)
- Lift with your knees
- Don't step on the fabric