Common questions about hot air ballooning

Going hot air ballooning is an exciting experience, but if it’s your first time, there are sure to be questions on your mind. Here are some of the ones we’re asked most often:

How high do hot air balloons fly?

The altitude record for hot air balloons is 22,000 feet. To fly this high, you need oxygen and special clothing. A pleasure hot air balloon flight can fly from treetop level to a few thousand feet high. The height of your balloon flight is dependent on the wind speed and direction.

How do you steer a balloon?

The balloon pilot has a limited steering capability. They can only go up by using the burner or down by venting air from the balloon. At different heights, the wind direction may be different, so by adjusting the altitude, the balloon can go in different directions.

How long and how far do balloons travel?

A hot air balloon flight usually lasts about an hour. In that time, the balloon can travel between two and eight miles depending on the wind speed.

The whole experience from filling the balloon with hot air to landing and being driven back to the launch site can be over three hours.

Why do balloons fly at dawn or dusk?

For the first two hours after sunrise and the two hours after sunset, winds are generally calmer. In the afternoon, winds tend to be more unpredictable. Ideally, winds should be between three and six miles per hour for smooth and safe flights, which is why dawn and dusk are the best times to fly.

Where does the balloon land?

The landing site is dependent on the wind speed and direction. A ground crew in a vehicle follows the balloon and is in radio contact with the pilot. As the flight nears its end, the ground crew and pilot decide on a safe landing site. The basket will touch the ground and slide for a few feet before stopping. If the wind is high the basket may bounce once or twice and tip up at an angle.

What should I wear?

The temperature at high altitudes will generally be cooler than on the ground. If you are comfortable in a thin top on the ground, bring a pullover or fleece to wear on the flight. You may also want to wear a hat.

You will be standing in the basket for about an hour, so wear comfortable shoes.

Can I fly the balloon?

To fly a hot air balloon, you need to have a special pilot’s licence that qualifies you to do so, so you will not be allowed to fly the balloon on a pleasure flight. If you like the idea of flying a balloon though, there are training courses available.

Why are flights cancelled?

If winds are high or there is rain, it is not safe to fly and the flight will be cancelled. Pilots consult detailed weather forecast for the local area which accurately predicts the weather for the next few hours. It may seem fine now, but if bad weather is due, the flight will be cancelled. Should this happen, don’t worry – you can transfer your flight booking to another day.

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