42nd Great Texas Balloon Race begins as pilots compete

42nd Great Texas Balloon Race begins as pilots compete
COME EARLY, STAY LATE: Large crowds expected for balloon race events, carpooling suggested

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - The first day of the 42nd edition of the Great Texas Balloon Race got underway Friday morning.

It was the traditional competition flight over the city of Longview, as pilots got their first chance to get on the leaderboard with scoring attempts.

But there was a wind challenge that pilots had to deal with.

From the breakout morning meeting, pilots scrambled to their best guess of where to take off from, knowing scoring chances are important.

“Consistency is the key. If you can score good today and score good again tomorrow and the next day, then you’re in it,” says Karen Kent of Louisiana, pilot of ‘Karens Dream’.

Pilot David Hoover of Arkansas says many fly on instinct.

“We have to depend a lot more on our eyes and our sense of motion. You have a 60,000 cubic foot, or 90,000 cubic foot, mass of air that has no rudder or parking brake,” he says.

Early on pilots were chattering on radios about a problem: wind-shear.

"Our biggest obstacle was probably the wind-shear. We did not have a lot of variance in wind directions," Kent says.

The skill of when to gain or reduce altitude came into play.

"We are not only navigating, we're navigating vertically up and down. We're trying to maneuver ourselves to the left of the target," Hoover says.

Pilots knew that a missed opportunity today could cost them.

"You can be right on it one day, and fall out of it the next day , it doesn't take much to turn the scores in this game, so its all about consistency. You just got to be good over the whole run," says Californian Jonathan Wright, pilot of 'Unchained'.

Firday’s events will conclude with the balloon glow at 8:50 tonight.

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