Update 4 PM (2200Z) Friday, October 6, 2017
Conditions are looking favorable for a launch Saturday evening, October 7, for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 22nd America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.
All of the members of the eight teams in the distinguished international field answered the roll call at the opening briefing Friday afternoon. Event Director John Petrehn, Command Center Director Ruth Lind, and the meteorological team of Randy Lefevre and Brad Temeyer briefed the teams on rules, launch and air traffic procedures, and above all, the weather anticipated in Albuquerque for launch and downrange as the race progresses.
Light winds are forecast in the late afternoon Saturday in Albuquerque, with a launch anticipated soon after the opening of the launch window at 6 PM (0000Z). The most likely trajectories at higher altitudes should take the balloons out to the east and northeast, with the possibility of long flights towards the upper Midwest or New England and into Canada. As Randy Lefevre put it, these could be fun flights! The meteorologists and teams are watching Tropical Storm Nate, expected to come onshore along the Gulf Coast Saturday evening, but anticipate the balloons will be able to miss the storm.
The launch order is determined by random draw, and the briefing concluded with Scoring Officer Jim Byrd doing the honors. The launch order will be:
Team 1: Barbara Fricke / Peter Cuneo, USA
Team 2: Phil Bryant / Mike Emich, USA
Team 3: Cheri White / Mark Sullivan, USA
Team 4: Kryzstof Zapart, Poland / Andy Cayton, USA
Team 5: Wilhelm Eimers / Sebastian Eimers, Germany
Team 6: Nicolas Tièche / Laurent Sciboz, Switzerland
Team 7: Noah Forden / Bert Padelt, USA
Team 8: Benoît Pelard / Benoît Péterlé, France
The next briefing will be at 12 noon (1800z), at which time the pilots will get an updated weather briefing and a further determination will be made on the launch time. Once the race begins, you can see live tracking on the Balloon Fiesta website, balloonfiesta.com, and on the free Balloon Fiesta apps for Android and iPhone.