Hope to fly? Learn to work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NATCHEZ — Hot-air balloon pilots aren’t the only ones that need training.

The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race will host a training seminar for area residents interested in volunteering to be crew members for the hot-air balloons that are coming to Natchez for the race in two weeks

The training is at 6 p.m. today in the theater at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

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Sally Durkin, public relations coordinator for the race, said the seminar will focus on safety and precautions needed when handling the balloon.

“It’s extremely important for anyone who wants to be involved to come to this,” Durkin said. “You need to be aware of all the safety factors involved in crewing for a balloon.”

Durkin said each year approximately 200 to 250 people are needed to help crew for balloons.

“We have some balloons that need just two people to help crew, and I have others that need 10,” Durkin said. “This year I have a huge balloon that is 120,000 cubic feet of envelope. That balloon will need eight or 10 people to crew.

The training is also a good chance for experienced crew members to brush up on their skills and be reminded of safety precautions.

Durkin said the training will cover proper clothing and gear to wear, including shoes and gloves, as well as vehicle safety and balloon handling.

“The driver needs to watch the road and let everyone else in the car watch the balloon,” Durkin said. “Safety is the most important issue and you have to be aware of it all the time.”

Pre-registration is not required. Crew members are all volunteers. Anyone attending the training session should be sure they will be available during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Oct. 15-17.