Here are the most frequently asked questions that we receive about hot air balloons:
No. The turbulence which usually causes motion sickness is completely absent in a balloon ride. The flight of a balloon is almost too smooth to describe.
A hot air balloon gets its lift from heating the air with propane fuel. A gas balloon gets its lift from lighter than air gases, usually helium or hydrogen.
The Civil Aviation Administration controls ballooning with the same strict regulations that apply to airplanes.
Most balloons are larger than your house. They hold from 19,000 to 211,000 cubic feet of air and loom from 50 to 90 feet.
To heat the air, the burners are fueled by propane gas, much the same as you probably use in your backyard barbecue grill. The burners do not run continuously; they are only used intermittently to heat the air to maintain the required lift.
Rip-stop nylon, dacron, taffeta and nylon are the most common.
Balloons are registered like any other aircraft and are subject to regular airworthiness checks. The Civil Aviation Authority will not allow a balloon to be certified as airworthy unless these inspections and checks are done by authorized maintenance personnel and certified by them. All pilots are licensed by the IDAC and have to pass regular flight checks.
If well taken care of, a balloon envelope should last approximately 500 flying hours.
The Civil Aviation Administration issues a Balloon Pilot Certificate to candidates who pass an IDAC written examination, obtain a prescribed number of hours in a balloon, make a solo flight to altitude, pass a flight test, and submit a medical statement.
At high altitude, it is colder than at ground level, generally 3.5 degrees colder for each 1,000 feet of altitude.
Flying in a high sided balloon basket is not like standing in a roof or a high ladder. You don’t get that vertigo feeling. It is more like the ground is unfolding beneath you, and, because you are moving with the wind, there is no wind blowing. The basket does not rock or sway so you can’t possibly fall out.
An altimeter to indicate altitude, a variometer showing its rate of climb or decent, a compass to show directions, and a temperature gage to show how hot the fabric is at the top of the balloon. Each propane tank has a fuel gauge, and the burner has a fuel pressure gauge.
Radios are used to stay in contact with the chase crew as well as with Air Traffic Control and other aircraft flying in the vicinity.
It depends on the wind speed. Hot Air Balloons travel with the wind and an hour flight can carry it up to 15 miles, sometimes more, sometimes less. The balloon also flies at different altitudes. Although the balloon is at the mercy of the wind when it comes to direction, the vertical control of a balloon can be very precise. It is not unusual for our pilots to be able to brush the bottom of the basket across the tops of brush, or inches from the ground. A leaf picked from a treetop is a very worthwhile souvenir of the flight!
Most balloonists enjoy low level flight. The typical balloon flight would be anywhere from tree level to about 3,000 feet above the ground.
A balloon flies better in cooler weather since the hot air gets a better “lift.” Balloonists usually fly just after dawn, because there is less wind at these times.
The balloon is followed by a chase vehicle and the crew. They are in constant contact with the balloon pilot by radio and should be at the landing site at the same time as the balloon. Once the balloon is packed away the chase vehicle will take you back.
Balloons need stable winds to operate effectively and the hours just following sunrise are the best for finding these winds. Since balloons move with the air, the weather is very important in deciding to whether or not to fly. The pilot chooses a launch site to use the wind currents to fly towards a suitable landing site.
The colorful envelope is usually made of nylon or polyester, the same type of cloth that parachutes are made of. It is very tightly woven and is coated with a material that makes it very air tight. The nylon is only used to keep the hot air in the balloon. The basket load is transferred by steel or Kevlar cables to a series of vertical load tapes which carry the load. Balloons range in size from about 54,000 cubic feet for a one- or two-person balloon to over 250,000 cubic feet for a balloon capable of carrying a pilot plus eight or ten passengers.
The balloon goes wherever the wind takes it. However, pilots can seek higher or lower altitudes to find wind currents of various direction. We refer to it as the truest form of sailing.
Because weight is critical in balloon flying, the baskets are made of light materials such as wicker, fiberglass or aluminum.
Depending on the weight capacity, balloons may be as tall as 100 feet.
The wicker basket has proven to be very strong for its weight and is flexible. The wicker is sometimes woven around a steel or aluminum frame, which helps to support the upright posts upon which the burner is mounted. The top rim of the basket and the uprights are usually padded and covered in suede or leather.
From start to finish, your adventure will last about 4 hours. The inflation and preparation of the balloon normally takes about 30 minutes. The flight itself normally takes around one hour. After the flight, the breakfast take about one hour and travel to and from the hotel will take about another 30 to 45 minutes or so each way. The balloons always carry sufficient fuel for at least 1 hour flight time plus a 45 minute reserve capacity.
Good question! The simple answer is that nobody knows, exactly! The pilot will have done flight planning before the launch to ensure that the forecast wind direction does not take the balloon towards an unsuitable area. S/he will use the different air currents at different altitudes to steer the balloon toward a good landing place. The pilot also closely follows agreements with local landowners.