Upon the final landing, it will then be time to secure, deflate and pack up the balloon. A couple general rules:
• Be careful around the balloon • Do not step on the fabric • No smoking around the balloon • Don't get caught underneath the fabric • Wear gloves during the deflation and packing process • Be safe!
Typically upon deflation, the pilot will have crew maintain weight on the basket while shutting down the fuel and instrument systems. Once this is compete, one or more crew will be asked to man the crown line and help pull the balloon down so it can be milked of air and streamered up for packing in the envelope bag. The crown line crew is responsible for helping keep the balloon from rolling or moving too far to the sides, and keeping the balloon in the deflation area or on the tarp (if the pilot chooses to use one). Be sure to wear gloves around the balloon during the deflation and packup.
Once on the ground, it is time for the envelope to be milked of air. Each pilot has a different method. Some pilots prefer that their balloon be milked by pulling it into their arms and slowly moving towards the top where the air empties from the deflation port. Other pilots may milk the balloon by gathering the fabric and squeezing it out on the ground with their knees. Some pilots have "squeezers," or devices that wrap around the fabric to push the air out. Regardless of the method, typically one crew will be responsible for holding open the deflation port. Be sure to wear gloves during the milking process, as some portions of the envelope can be hot from the flight. And always be sure to take direction from the pilot.
While emptying the air, be certian to not step on the fabric, as it can rip if it's pulled while there is weight on it. Also, only pull on the balloon from the load tapes, and be certian that you follow the directions of the pilot on pulling and stuffing the balloon.
Typically the crew will load the envelope back in the bag once it is empty. This tyhpically involves grabbing the envelope about 5 feet apart, and either bringing it to the bag or having the bag brought to you by other crew. Stuff your potion in and go back to the end of the line and grab some more. The more hands available make the work less, so if there are eager spectators, this might be a good time to invite them to help. The pilot will typically secure the basket and fuel system while the crew sqeezes any remaining air out of the envelope bag, and then it is time to load back up and head back to the launch site for tailgate parties or breakfast!
Before leaving the landing site, be sure to check the area for loose equipment and always leave the space as you found it. Don't drive onto property unless you have permission and always take the time to thank any landowners for the use of their property. Some crews will offer gifts of champagne, balloon cards or other goodies to landowners. This helps secure the space as a future landing spot for other balloons.