Balloon Festival and Air Show today

HUGHESVILLE – Blue skies are on the forecast – perfect weather to come out and enjoy the planes, skydivers and hot air balloons at the “Balloon Fest, Air Show & So Much More” held by the Lycoming County Rotary clubs this afternoon at the fair grounds in Hughesville.

“It looks like tomorrow might be kind of breezy in the morning. If it is calm enough to take off and fly, the pilots will have a narrow window before the sun heats up the ground,” said Paul Head, meteorologist for the National Weather Service and licensed pilot Friday afternoon.

Sunday morning may be slightly cloudy, but no fog is expected on the forecast.

“During the afternoon, the high pressure area is going to build, so the wind will be light in the afternoon and evening hours,” Head said.

“The morning may have some light clouds, but the afternoon should be crystal clear with a nice blue sky, which is going to be perfect for taking pictures,” he added.

The skilled pilots performing at the air show know how important the weather is to their craft. Gene Burnstein, balloon pilot, explained how the wind and weather can work in a pilot’s favor.

“We use the wind currents to steer our balloons, so we don’t like gusty winds or rain. We need the winds to commensurate with the direction we want to travel and the available landing area,” Burnstein said.

Geography also affects the balloon’s flight, Burnstein said. For example, landing a balloon in an open field is very different than trying to land in someone’s back yard.

“The less space we have to land in, the slower we need the winds to be,” he said.

To check the weather, the pilots fill up black balloons – called pibalds – with helium. They then release the pibalds and watch how they travel as they rise in the sky. Air currents circulate in layers that help a pilot steer, Burnstein explained.

“As you move up through those layers, the air will be travelling in different directions. So I can raise or lower my balloon to move left or right,” Burnstein said.

Balloon pilots determine directions of the air currents through a variety of methods. Burnstein said he examines the tops of trees or crops being effected by the wind below. Some pilots use smoke, or even spit off the side of the gondola, to gather information about the currents as well.

“In addition, (I) can look at other balloons either in front of me or behind me and see how the wind is effecting them. The currents of air can change very quickly during a flight,” Burnstein said.

Other attractions at the air show will include the Misty Blues, an all-female skydiving team, who will parachute down and land right in the fairgrounds. The ladies are scheduled for two jumps, weather permitting. The first flight, scheduled around 11 a.m., will be a patriotic tribute. During their second jump, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the team will hold glow sticks as they descend.

The precision flying group, Team AeroDynamix, will fly in formation and perform jaw-dropping tricks high above the crowds. Many of the pilots on the team have built their own planes, and their performances are sure to wow young and old alike, planners said.

Other entertainment will include magicians, live music and a puppet show. Craft and food vendors will set up their booths as well.