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Hot Air Ballon Rides - How to Enjoy Hot Air Ballon Rides Safely

usually pilot landing crew

Hot air ballon operators try to ensure that every ride is a safe, positive experience. But ballon riders also need to do everything they can to help.

The colorful ballon itself (called the “envelope”) is open at the bottom, inflated with cold air, and caused to ascend by means of a burner flame, which heats the air, and which is situated above the ballon riders’ heads. As most people know, hot air rises, and thus the ballon flies.

Passengers ride in the basket or gondola, which is flexible, so that it doesn’t break apart upon landing, which can sometimes be rough. This flexibility also makes it more expedient for passengers to access the basket.

You may wonder what you should wear, and the answer to that is casual clothes, jeans or slacks, but no shorts, as landings generally take place in rough fields. Just dress according to the weather, as it will not be colder in the air, because ballons fly on the air currents.

Walking shoes are recommended, as you will be standing throughout the entire ride, usually anywhere from half an hour up to two hours, so no open-toed shoes and no high heels. And if a person is very tall, a cap is recommended to reduce heat from the burner, which is just above the passengers’ heads. All in all, it is best to dress in layers, so that they may be removed if desired.

As to children, most operators require them to be at least six years of age or 48 inches tall. But pregnant women are not allowed usually, at least not without a medical release.

You also may wonder if you might get air sick or experience motion sickness, and the answer is no, as the ballon moves with the wind, so there is no sensation of movement at all in a ballon. Ballon riding is peaceful and quiet, once the burner is shut off.

But you will usually be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 feet off the ground, so consider that if you are afraid of heights, although the baskets are usually 48 inches high and give a feeling of security, so that usually becomes a moot issue.

Most ballon companies offer complimentary bottled water onboard, and you are invited to bring a camera or video recorder, along with an appropriate padded carrying case. But leave extraneous things in your locked car, such as, handbags, cell phones, etc.

The “chase crew” (also referred to as the “ground crew”) follows the ballon and obtains permission to retrieve the ballon from the landowner’s property where the ballon has landed. In its capacity as “ground” crew, they also help set up the ballon before take-off, make sure that anything the pilot requires is in the basket, and they assist with a safe lift-off.

The pilot and the crew communicate by radio, so that the chase crew knows just where the pilot intends to land. Then when landing actually takes place, the crew is already nearby to assist. Except for emergencies, cell phones are usually prohibited while the ballon is in the air because of possible violations of local telecommunication regulations.

Every ballon flight is different, because so much depends on the whims of the weather. There are different air currents at different levels, and that is one way the pilot can navigate and actually change direction of travel for the ballon. But this is not always possible if there is not much difference in the currents.

Weather is the reason that ballooning is so exciting. Landing locations cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. Because of the unpredictability of sudden weather changes, this sport can also be dangerous and has been lethal in some cases. A ground wind of even five miles per hour can make landing tedious, and danger increases as the wind does. So count the cost before embarking on this unique adventure.

Another option is to take a limited ballon ride providing by tethering, which means that the ballon will be anchored to the ground with ropes, or tethers. By doing so, particularly at festivals where many ballons are present, many more people get a chance to ride. Tethering also allows the hot air ballon experience without the normal hazards that free flying ballons entail.

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