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Pilot: Todd Davis “Certified Member”
What if I’m afraid of heights?
This is a question we hear from so many people. Sometimes they don’t believe our answer at all. Let me first say that the last thing we want is to take someone flying that is scared the entire time. It is no fun for us, and no fun for our other passengers. That being said, very few people are afraid of heights! In fact most people are actually afraid of edges……….
As a pilot I can honestly say that when I am on a tall ladder, edge of a roof, cliff or building. These are all things that take but a simple slip to fall from, get injured or worse. I do not stand on or near edges! Balloons do not trigger the fear that many people have of falling for a couple of different reasons. The first is that they are always moving with the wind rather than through the wind. There is no sense of motion in a balloon! The second is that balloon baskets are very tall the simple act of climbing on board can be challenging for some people. We tell all of our passengers “The best part of it being so difficult to get in the basket is that it is even more difficult to get out”. In all the years of flying we have had even exceptionally nervous passengers calm down and enjoy the flight in just a few minutes.
One of the best things about living is the ability to challenge ourselves and hopefully end up living in a much bigger box than our fears would like us to. Balloons are a fantastic and safe way to challenge a fear of heights. If you are nervous feel free to tell your pilot and he will help make the transition from Chicken to Eagle as smooth as possible for you. Remember it is only fun for us if it is fun for you.
How does a balloon work?
Hot air balloons fly because the air inside of the balloon is hotter than the outside air. By using propane-fueled burners, the air is heated, and the balloon ascends. To descend, the air inside the balloon must be cooled by either letting the envelope cool on its own or by opening the vent at the top of the envelope to let some of the hot air out. Throughout a flight, the pilot will use a combination of heating and cooling the balloon to ascend and descend. And when it is time to land, the top of the envelope is opened completely to let all of the air out and deflate the balloon.
When do balloons fly?
Since balloon flights require specific weather conditions, flights generally occur at sunrise or just before sunset when the winds are the lightest. If wind speed at the time of launch is more than 6 miles an hour, it is too dangerous to fly. Other weather conditions such as rain, low clouds and certain wind direction, will keep the balloons on the ground for safety reasons.
How long is a balloon ride?
Balloon flights can range anywhere between an hour or more depending on wind and weather conditions and direction of flight. The whole ballooning experience, however, generally takes 3 hours. This includes the set up, flight, pack up, a story about the history of ballooning, the traditional champagne toast (or sparkling cider), and presentation of your first flight certificate(s).
How high, how fast, and how far will we fly?
Hot air balloons usually cruise at an altitude of 1,000 feet above ground. Many balloon flights occur between 100 and 2,000 feet above the ground, but balloons can fly at treetop level or go much higher. Since balloons travel with the wind, the balloon will only go as fast as the wind is blowing, generally not much faster than 8 – 10 mph. The distance the balloon will travel also depends on the speed of the wind as well as the duration of the flight. For example, an hour-long flight with winds averaging 5 mph will travel a distance of about 5 miles.
Where will I land?
Balloons travel with the wind and cannot be steered. Pilots may, however, change directions by ascending or descending to pick up varying wind directions at different altitudes. Therefore, you will land wherever the wind takes you! Balloons generally land in large open areas such as front and back yards, parking lots, fields, and parks.
Are there any passenger restrictions?
Almost anyone can take a balloon ride, however there are some restrictions for safety reasons. Passengers should be tall enough to see over the edge of the basket (about 42 inches high), be able to stand for at least an hour, have no medical issues that may affect their ability to participate in light physical activity. We cannot take women that are pregnant. All passengers should be sure to inform their pilot of any and all potential medical or physical problems prior to flight.
What should I wear?
You should dress as you would for any outdoor activity: loose comfortable clothing with sturdy footwear. Please no heeled shoes or sandals. A light jacket or sweatshirt might be worth bringing for cooler mornings and evenings. Cotton is recommended. Please do not wear nylon. The temperature up in the balloon will be about the same as it is on the ground. There is a slight, 3.5 °F drop in temperature per 1000 feet above sea level, however since most flights take place at an average of 1000 feet, the difference is barely noticeable. If it is a winter morning we will feel an increase in temperature due to heating the day before, so if you can dress in layers you may need to take off a jacket, even if its only 20 degrees on the ground! For more information, click here to see our winter flying page.
What are the components of a hot air balloon?
The two main components of a balloon system are of the envelope, or brightly colored inflatable sphere, and the gondola, or basket. The envelope is usually made of rip-stop nylon fabric (the same fabric as a parachute) and can range anywhere from 60 to 80 feet high (and even taller on some special shaped balloons!). The diameter of balloons range from 30 to 40 feet. The gondola is made of wicker and is framed by aluminum or stainless steel. It carries the propane gas tanks, an instrument panel, as well as the pilot and passengers. The instrument panel contains an altimeter, which measures altitude; a pyrometer, which measures the heat at the top of the envelope; and a variometer, which measures rate of ascent and descent.
If you have any other questions, feel free
to contact us at 301-814-3297!
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