Hot air balloons make rare appearance on Albuquerque’s southside

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Strong winds brought a majority of the hot air balloons from Balloon Fiesta Park all the way to Downtown Albuquerque. It’s a route not many pilots are used to navigating.

“Having the balloons flying across downtown, or going over the Big I, and stuff like that, and waving at people at the hospital as you’re going by is pretty cool,” says Scott Appleman.

As the first balloon to take off from Balloon Fiesta Park, Rainbow Ryders President Scott Appleman says Friday morning’s flying conditions were not exactly what he was expecting.

“I had the flag in the Dos Equis balloon. I was doing the National Anthem. I was in a black balloon in dark skies going straight south and it was like, holy mackerel, I’m going pretty fast!” he says.

Instead of heading out to the westside like they normally do, Friday morning’s mass ascension led the balloons south.

“The idea of going across town and knowing there’s all kinds of areas to land down there, and quite frankly put the show on for the city of Albuquerque,” says Appleman.

Appleman says the wind made it difficult to maneuver the balloons.

“It was going to be a north to south flight today. There was no box winds. There was nothing that was going to give us a lot of steering,” he says.

That meant some pilots, like Gary Moore from Wanderlust Balloons, felt more comfortable staying grounded.

“We decided that we weren’t going to fly because it’s very windy and for a shape to try and get into a small city spot, that’s very difficult,” says Moore.

Many pilots managed to find an open spot to land in places near Isleta and Rio Bravo, or even on Kirtland Air Force Base.

“It was still very doable. It was a lot of fun. It really gives you confidence to have enough speed to get across the city and go land where it’s wide open down there by the airport, The Pit, the stadiums and stuff,” says Appleman.

Some balloons did go west Friday morning. A Rio Rancho Fire Rescue crew had to help remove a balloon that was tangled in a flag pole in Corrales. Luckily, no one was hurt.

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