ALBUQUERQUE…Final preparations are underway for the 2010 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta “Earth, Wind and Flyers”, launching October 2rd through the 11th. The 39th Balloon Fiesta will feature 500 registered hot air and gas balloons and 650 balloon pilots representing 17 countries and 39 states.
Registered pilots from 17 countries include Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Topping the list of states contributing the most pilots is New Mexico with 177 pilots, followed by Texas (40 pilots), Arizona (26 pilots), Colorado (25 pilots), California (22 pilots), Illinois (14 pilots), Florida (11 pilots), Missouri (10 pilots), rounding out the top ten are Indiana and Kentucky with 9 pilots from their respective states.
New Mexico is the state that boasts the largest number of balloon pilots and is home to almost 200 balloons. Pilots from around the world thrive in Albuquerque’s unique fall weather and take advantage of the “box” – a combination of upper and lower level winds created by the Rio Grande Valley and enhanced by the Sandia Mountains. The box enables balloonists to sometimes backtrack their flight path and land close to their launch site.
The 15th America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race will launch 18 pilots in 9 gas balloons on Tuesday, October 5th . The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta America’s Challenge race for gas balloons launches, weather permitting, at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, October 5th from Balloon Fiesta Park. The change of schedule will give members of the American team who are also competing in the world’s other major gas balloon distance race, the Coupe Gordon Bennett, time to return to Albuquerque after the conclusion of the event.
The object of the America’s Challenge is to fly the greatest distance from Albuquerque while competing within the event rules. The balloonists often stay aloft more than two days and must use the winds aloft and weather systems to their best advantage to gain the greatest distance. Flights of more than 1,000 miles are not unusual, and the winners sometimes travel as far as Canada and the East Coast.