One of the more pleasant surprises I had while working on the balloon was getting to know other balloon builders. One of these people was Don Piccard. He had the first certificate to build FAA approved hot air balloon. Don Piccard is absolutely filled with balloon knowledge. For more information on him, see this excellent Balloon Life article.
Originally Don Piccard had offered to sell me some light-weight fabric that he had. I decided to go with the more traditional heavy fabric for my first balloon. I expect my next balloon will use light weight fabric.
Later, while I was getting ready to get the load tape to put on the balloon, I asked Don for some advice on how to attach the load tape and where to get it. He happened to have some extra load tape he would sell me. I kept e-mailing him questions about putting on the load tape, and finally he sent me directions to his house.
At first I thought there was no way I would be able to take a road trip to go visit him, after all, my wife was pregnant! But the more I thought about it, the more I had to take him up on the offer. An opportunity to spend time with some one who knew that much, could not be missed. Not to mention, Don Piccard is a hell of a nice guy too.
So I did a road trip up to Minneapolis where Don patiently answered all of my questions. Sometimes he had to answer them several times before I managed to understand.
One of the hardest things for me was that a change in my design was necessary. Because I had cut straight edged panels, my load would not be properly transferred to the load tapes. I had to sew them to the middle of the gore, or make the load tape significantly shorter than the gore so that the balloon would 'bow' in. Sewing the tape to the middle of the gore seemed like it would look the best.