Main Screen

columns of data are described at the bottom of this page

This is the first screen displayed by the program. Prior to loading and running a prediction many options on this screen and on various menus are disabled (grayed out) indicating they have no data to work with. Once you import a data file they will become active.

In previous versions of the program the filename of the current data was placed on the Title bar beside "Balloon Track for Windows". I've incorporated a status bar at the bottom of the Main Screen and the filename now appears there. If the path to the file is too long, it is truncated as shown above in the screen shot. But, the full filename should always appear. In addition, I have included the bearing and range from the launch site to touchdown for the current prediction.

The work flow starts here. If you have no data, click on the "Launch Browser" button. A popup screen will show several buttons with Web Pages on them. Click one and your browser should launch and go to that web site. Download the appropriate winds file and save it as a plain text file to a folder where you will be able to find it in the next step.

Now, you have to import that data. That is because it is in a form unusable to Balloon Track. So, from the File menu Select Open. New to version 1.6.2, you don't have to specifically select the "Import" option, in fact it's gone. Now when you select "Open" the file you point to is examined to determine the data source. If the source data is in a recognized format, it will automatically be imported.  However, not all formats are accepted. If you find a source of data that does not import then contact me with a URL to where the data is obtained and I may be able to create an import filter for you. See Importing Overview for more details and sources of data.

If you downloaded a WXP Raob file then just use the file open dialog box to select that file.

If you downloaded an aviation style winds aloft FD file, do the same but see "Import FD Data" for details on how to select the right station to import.

Once the import process is finished, another dialog box will appear. Balloon Track will suggest a filename to save these winds in its "native" format. The suggested filename is based on the Name of the reporting station and the date.

Accept this name, or enter one of your own.

The data is then saved in a format compatible with Balloon track, and it is also loaded into the program and a prediction is run with your default settings.

Now you have several options.

For more info on the Buttons click:

You could specify a maximum Altitude you wish your computation to be made for. This altitude and its automatic use can be set on the Setup Screen as well. 

Above in the screen shot there is a button labeled "Revert to Wind File". When the program starts this button is labeled "Select Burst Altitude". Type an altitude into the box to the right of this button and click it. The altitude you entered will be highlighted in Yellow with a Red background. When you click the "Select Burst Altitude" button,  the program calculates a predicted touchdown point for this altitude using the available winds. 

WHEN this Burst Altitude is forced, the program considers whether or not you are using information contained within the data file or making up wind data. If you select a burst altitude above the highest available in the wind data file, the program highlights the tabular output in black text on a "red" background as a reminder that you are working with synthesized data. If you enter a burst altitude that is BELOW the winds available in the data file then the text is highlighted by painting the background green. This indicates that you are forcing a burst at a specific altitude, but that you have valid data for all winds to that altitude.

Notice in the example screen shot that the maximum wind altitude report for this file was 109,297 feet. So, in this example, Balloon track uses the winds up to 95,000 feet and then starts the float or descent portion of the prediction. The background is painted green to indicate that your are forcing a burst but that the data should be reliable as it was obtained from your data file and not manufactured by BT to extend the highest level available winds to the burst altitude.

However, suppose you had a wind file with a maximum reported altitude of only 39,000 feet. In that case, Balloon Track would use the winds from 39,000 feet and assume they existed at every flight level up to 95,000 feet. In just about all circumstances, this will result in a very inaccurate prediction. You really have to come up with some semi-reliable winds above 39,000 feet to come close to being accurate. To accentuate the fact that you are using fabricated data, the screen's background would have been painted RED.

Sometimes, an RAOB site has a balloon failure resulting in no high altitude winds. I recommend you check all neighboring stations and see if you can get some data above the low level winds you have for your local site. Then, use the winds from that station for the missing winds above your local failure altitude. Winds in the stratosphere are fairly constant over a wide area and this substitution may offer a reasonably accurate prediction.

If you wish you can push this button, now labeled "Revert to Wind File" and the computations will automatically be made with only those winds reported in the data file.

NOTE: There is a Forced Re-Calculation button, however Balloon Track should now automatically rerun the computations whenever you make a choice that requires it.

You can specify that you are only interested in reports for altitudes that the FAA might be interested require in your reporting.

This is really a two step process. First, you should go to the Setup Screen. Click on the "FAA Report Setup" and then place a checkmark beside each altitude report you wish to see in the prediction run. If you always are going to be interested in these same altitudes, save the ini file and those altitude reports will be used each time you run the program.

Next, return to the main screen and click the "FAA Only Reports" button. The program will run the prediction exactly the same as it does for a full report, however, only the FAA reporting altitudes will be displayed on the Main Screen or in any printouts you generate.

You can quickly change the measurement system used. If you have set Imperial (English) units as your default measurement system, click the "Switch to Metric" button and everything will be converted to meters, kilometers.

Once the prediction has been made all the other buttons become active. You can view the track, look at charts generated on the data from the prediction, see a synopsis of the flight. Click on the appropriate choices to the left to see what happens for each one.

Most of the buttons are now TOGGLES. That is, if you press "Synopsis" the synopsis screen opens. Press it again and the screen closes.

Menu Options


Open - will open any recognized data format including import and native files.

Open Blender - you can specify two files and Balloon Track will blend them into one data file. The "Lower Level Wind File" will take precedence. The program will import ALL the data in that file. If the data in that file ends at an altitude lower than the data contained in the "Upper Level Wind File" then the upper level winds in that file will be appended to the resulting data file.

Export - will export the prediction into various formats indicated on the sub menu that appears when you select this option.

Convert - Converts Flight_Data files to Google Earth KML

Print - will print the data you select from the sub menu.

Exit - shuts down Balloon Track


Balloon Track generates various data files. You can view them by selecting from the sub menu that appears when you click View.

If MapPoint is installed and available then a "Map all Predictions" option appears.

[Packet Data]

Packet Terminal - opens a terminal window where data received over a serial port from a TNC can be processed.

Process Packet File - Balloon Track can process a text file extracting location information


Balloon Track has several calculators you might find useful.

[Launch Browser]

Two options are available.

If you click on Internal Browser a "home made" browser opens. See the Internal Browser Page.

Click on Internet Explorer and a small window opens with several buttons.

As the help text indicates, you can right click on any button and change the associations for that button. If you just click on a button the associated URL will be launched in your default browser.

[Inet Mapping]

You can map the results of a prediction at various internet web sites. The program now has an internal internet mapping capability using MapBlast. See the Setup overview for information on how to implement this. If you have NO URLs set for this option, the browser based links do NOT appear. The Internal MapBlast is always available. See the page describing it for more details.


Takes you to the all important Setup Screen. While some areas of Balloon Track function with default settings, it is very important to configure the program for best results.


There used to be an actual help file for the program. But, maintaining it became just too arduous. Now you are left with a link to these web pages for assistance.

About indicates the version number of the program.

Data Readouts

There are two areas on the above screen where computed data appears.

The Working Database

This is the database that stores all the winds aloft information.

  • Altitude (in feet or meters)
  • Direction (in degrees)
  • Speed (in MPH or KPH)

The program does not use these values in computation. Instead it always computes predictions using altitude in feet, direction in degrees and speed in knots. This is just a more user friendly way to view the data.

The Prediction Output

  • Time - shown in either time of day or elapsed minutes after launch depending on how this was configured on the Setup Screen
  • Altitude - shown in either feet or meters
  • Bear - is the bearing from the launch site
  • Range - is the range from the launch site in miles or kilometers
  • Elev. - is the number of degrees above the horizon the balloon appears from the launch site
  • Climb/Descent - is shown in either feet per minute or meters per minute (negative is a balloon system in descent)
  • Latitude (or X Grid Coordinates) - decimal degrees (minus is southern hemisphere)
  • Longitude (or Y Grid Coordinates) - decimal degrees (minus is in the western hemisphere)
  • Distance to LOS distance in miles or kilometers from the point directly below the balloon to the horizon as seen from the balloon at altitude.
  • VOR Bearing - the magnetic bearing from the selected VOR site
  • VOR Rng - the range in nautical miles from the selected VOR site
  • VOR Ident - the VOR's 3 letter ID