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The White Sands Balloon Invitational

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
The White Sands Balloon Invitational is a hot air balloon festival held annually in and near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Participation is by invitation only, to the best recognized balloon pilots. Typically 50 to 60 balloons participate.

Normally, on one of the two days, the balloons ascend from the White Sands National Monument, an incredible expanse of bright white, gypsum-based sand dunes about 12 miles west of Alamogordo.

On the other day, the ascent is from Alamogordo Balloon Park, recently established by the city for this purpose (although it is used for many other events as well).

This year, the White Sands ascent was scheduled for the first day, Saturday, (it is tricky to get clearance for this, as White Sands lies between the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base). Sadly, the winds were very high and erratic that day, and the liftoff was for the most part "scrubbed".

But on Saturday, for the ascent from Alamogordo, the weather was almost perfect, with a steady, light breeze from the South.

The event is a photographer's delight, with the multicolored balloon envelopes and the many fascinating activities required to prepare them for liftoff (not to mention the many fascinating onlookers).

I'll start with my favorite shot of the entire event, done by Carla with her trusty (red of course) Canon Powershot SX150 IS. To me, it captures the essence of the whole morning activity:


Carla C. Kerr: Rise and shine

We see, nicely arranged, four balloons in different stages of inflation. The one in the foreground has just started to take air from its inflation fan. As we proceed to the rear, its companions are progressively further along. Number 2 is fairly far among with the air inflation. Number 3 has had "first burn" and is beginning to rise as it fills with hot air—you can see the top line, held by two crew members; its job is to prevent the balloon from jubilantly erecting prematurely, an achievement that it is not really, at that point, prepared to sustain.

Number 4 is fully erect, and will shortly be ready to ascend.

It is all just wondrous.

In fact, here we see "number 1" headed out.


Douglas A. Kerr: On the way

Nothing leaves without clearance from a launch director:


Carla C. Kerr: Take 'er up

The Sacramento Mountains (we live almost at their feet) make a beautiful backdrop for the event:


Douglas A. Kerr: Where the desert meets the mountains

This guy has a tether line—it was giving little lift-offs to visitors.

More shortly - gotta do some facilities engineering.

Best regards,