Frequently Asked Questions
May I purchase a ride in a balloon during the GTBR?
Because the Great Texas Balloon Race is a competitive event, rides for hire are not available. Our pilots are the best in the world and they are fiercely competing for several different major titles. Most are flying in gondolas that are very small and designed for the pilot alone. For these reasons, rides for hire are not something we offer. However, many of the pilots do offer commercial flights at other times. You are welcome to ask them about their for-hire services and set up a flight at another time.
Where will the balloons be launching and landing?
Pretty much anywhere they want to. Really, it’s true. There are no set launch or landing locations. The pilots are given target locations for the competitive flights each morning at the briefing. Once they have the location of the targets, they then examine wind conditions and choose a location to launch that they think will give them the best chance to hit the targets. Rules say they must launch at least two miles from the first target location. Similarly, they choose their landing site after passing the last target of the day by where the wind has taken them. Pilots are issued a competition map of the area that indicates areas where they may not launch, land or pass over. These areas may be off limits because they are private properties and the landowners have indicated they do not wish to have balloons on their land. Sometimes these off limit areas are deemed unsafe to launch or land on.
Where can I watch the balloons launch?
The best way to watch the launches is to come to the location of the pilot briefing, wait for the pilots to adjourn and then follow them to whichever launch spot they choose. Here’s what you need to know:
- Pilot briefings will be at Maude Cobb Convention Center at 6 a.m.
- You won't be allowed inside the briefing, but that's ok, you can visit with the balloon crews as you wait.
- Once the pilots come out of the briefing, they will be in a hurry and it may seem a little chaotic, so please don't get in their way.
- You can follow the pilots as they leave the briefing and find their desired launch points. If you are following the pilot's chase vehicle, please keep a few things in mind:
- Be prepared for frequent and quick stops
- Chances are there will be some U-turns and changing of minds
- They may pull over to the side of the road and release a helium balloon and watch it float away
- Please obey all traffic laws and keep road safety in mind
- If the pilots launch on private property, they probably have permission to be there, but you don’t. Be respectful of private property and watch from a distance.
- Often a group of pilots will launch together in one spot and it is really a treat to watch two to six balloons inflate and ascend together. Others will launch alone.
- Pick up some donuts or bagels on the way and make a morning of it. It’s all fun.
Where will the targets be?
There are usually several tasks and/or targets for each competitive flight. These are not decided upon until the morning of the flight and they are released to the pilots first. Some targets and tasks are in the air and not really discernible to the viewer on the ground. For Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning competitive flights, if there are any targets that are accessible to and safe for viewers, we will post those locations on our Facebook page and on the homepage of www.gtbr.net immediately following the pilot briefing.
Will I be able to see the target areas?
Yes. There will be a large area around each target that will be marked off. Measuring team members will be around this perimeter to make sure that no one enters the target zone. It is critical to the integrity of the competition that no marker on the ground is touched, moved or tampered with by anyone until it is logged by the measuring team. If a pilot’s marker lands outside the target zone, please do not touch or move it. The measuring team will retrieve the marker.
Is this really a race, or what?
Well, it's not a speed race, but time does count. The balloon pilots are competing really in navigational tasks. There are targets on the ground that they try to hit with bean bag markers and tasks in the air that they try to complete. The ground targets are fun for us on the ground to watch. There is the "toss" task where the pilot may wind up and toss his bean bag marker onto the target. There is also a "gravitational drop" task, where the pilot must simply drop the marker without the benefit of a toss. This necessitates the pilot's balloon be directly over the target. They are awarded points according to how close their marker is to the target. The pilot must not touch down or land within the target zone. Points are deducted if they do.
Some tasks are in the air so the grounded spectator may not be aware of them. For instance, a task may be a designated point (longitude, latitude and altitude) that the pilot wants to pass through. Each pilot carries an electronic GPS logger that records their position every few seconds so that their position in proximity to the task is determined.
Pilots must launch their balloons at least two miles from the first target, so finding the perfect launch point that will put them in the right wind is crucial. Each target or task is only open for a specific window of time. If a pilot doesn't make it to the target in time, no points are awarded. Targets and tasks are determined each morning and revealed to the pilots at the morning briefings.
Where can I find out what day and time each activity will take place?
Click here >> Schedule
How can I become a volunteer for the event?
Visit our ‘Contact Information’ tab on our website to learn who you should contact for further information. There is usually an email address and/or phone number listed for your convenience.
Click Here >> Contact Us
Do I need a ticket for the concerts AND the Balloon Glows?
Yes. The balloon glows and concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday night at the Longview Convention Complex. Get them today at OuthouseTickets.com, Visit Longview Marketplace at 109 W. Tyler St. in Longview, and at area Brookshire’s and Super 1 locations.
Tickets are $15 for Friday night and $20 for Saturday night. You can also also purchase tickets at the gate, cash only.
Where do I park during the event?
General Parking areas are on Jaycee Drive. Handicap and VIP Parking will utilize the 100 Grand Blvd. entrance (credentials required). There is no charge for parking.
How can I find out who the pilots are and what balloons they are flying?
We will list pilots and their balloons here for your convenience:
I'm fascinated with the balloons and how they work. How can I find out more about them?
The good people at CaZoo Hot Air Balloon Team have put together a really good crew training package. While it's geared toward training new crew members, it has a very good glossary of balloon terms and parts and explains a lot of the workings of the balloon. Check it out here: http://cazooee.com/crewing/index.htm