How do you land a hot air balloon?

A hot air balloon has no set landing site, since a balloon flies according to the direction of the wind. An average hot air balloon flight lasts about an hour, after which the pilot has to find a suitable safe landing site.

Finding the landing site

The pilot of the hot air balloon is in touch with the ground crew, who follow the balloon in a vehicle. They help the pilot choose a suitable landing site.

A safe landing site is a wide open space away from power lines. This will usually be a field free from cows, sheep or other animals. The site needs to be near a road to provide access to the ground crew.

The skill of the pilot and ground crew is knowing the size the landing site needs to be. This can be affected by the size of the balloon. A smaller balloon is easier to manoeuvre and can land in a smaller space.

The landing

After a suitable landing site has been found, the pilot operates the vent that lets air out of the balloon canopy. This cause the balloon to descend. A skilled balloon pilot is able to judge the rate of descent needed for a smooth landing. As the balloon is descending, the pilot can adjust the descent rate by either letting out air, or operating the burner to heat the air and slow the descent.

If the descent is over trees, the passengers can find the experience, a little scary as the balloon seems to rush towards the trees, but the pilot will be in full control of the situation.

The pilot aims for the landing to be as soft as possible. This cannot be guaranteed, especially if the wind is fairly strong, Sometimes the landing can be a little rough, with the basket bouncing along the ground a few times before halting. This should not concern the passengers as they will be in no danger from injury. Some passengers even like rough landing, as it adds to the adventure of the flight.

Pilots pride themselves on their skills of landing balloons. This has led to competitive sports, such as flying close to trees in order to see how many leaves can be picked, or landing on targets placed on the fields. Of course, these are done without passengers.

After the landing

Once the balloon is stationary, the ground crew hold the basket down to allow the passengers to disembark. The pilot opens the valve all the way to let out the rest of the air, making it ready folding and putting the balloon in the ground crew’s transport.

After the landing, it is time to celebrate, which is traditionally done with a champagne toast. Champagne was originally used in France to compensate angry farmers who did not like balloons landing in their fields.

Photographs are taken and commemorative certificates handed out. The balloon pilot and passengers are then driven back to the launch site or another convenient dropping off point.

Many passengers are so thrilled by the experience, they cannot wait to book another balloon flight.

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