The crown line position is a key element to a successful inflation. The pilot will assign one or perhaps two persons to perform this task. The crown line persons must act as "anchor" for the rising balloon. On windy days this can be a physically taxing position, so be sure to inform your pilot if you are not up to the task.
A preferred inflation technique is inflating out of the bag. In the "inflating out of the bag" method, the crown line person and at least one helper ("Toter" - see next section) will slowly carry the envelope bag away from the basket as the fan inflates the balloon. The "Toter" must take the envelope bag back to the chase vehicle.
Once the entire envelope is out, the crown line person(s) will retrieve the crown line rope(s) and extend them. Be careful not to pull fast on ropes that are in contact with the balloon fabric as it can cause friction that can "burn" the balloon.
After the crown lines are straightened, the pilot will "set the top" by fastening Velcro tabs in place. The crown line persons are usually in position at the end of the rope, but should not pull on the crown line yet.
Our team prefers to use 2 crown lines during inflation. The lines are positioned at 90 degrees from each other, so that the crown lines and the balloon form a "Y" shape, with the basket at the bottom of the "Y" (see diagram on right).
After all the tabs are set, the pilot will give a signal to the crown line person to pull on the line, which usually has a ski rope handle on the end.
The crown line operator's primary function is to keep the balloon stable as it inflates and eventually stands up. Without proper pressure, the envelope's momentum during the hot inflation can lay it over the top of the vehicle, which is not good.
Crown line pressure keeps the throat open, and saves fabric from being in the way of the flames. Keeping the crown line tight can be key to a good inflation, especially if it is a bit breezy.
Key crown line points:
- Don't put the rope around any part of you
- Never cross a fence or road with the line
- Try to keep knots out of the crown line rope
- Never run a crown line under a power line
- Make sure you have gloves on
- Don't pull on the lines until instructed (after the top is set)
- When directed, pull with your weight - knees bent - leaning back
- If the balloon is rolling toward you, walk backwards to keep the pressure constant
- Do not let any slack in the line
- If you have to "short line" the crown (because of lack of space), use a hand-over-hand technique to dole out the line while keeping as much pressure on it as you can
- Don't try to run to counter the roll of the balloon
- Keep steady pressure on the balloon as it rises
- When signaled by pilot, bring the line to the basket, disconnect the ski rope, hand the crown line to the pilot for connecting to frame, then put weight on the basket