Ballooning FAQs


How long is a balloon flight?

Balloon flights can range anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on wind and weather conditions, direction of flight, and suitable landing areas.  The whole ballooning experience, however, generally takes between 2 and three hours, and includes the setup, flight, pack up and return trip to the festival.


When do balloons fly?

A balloon flies better in cooler weather since the hot air gets a better "lift." Balloons also need stable winds to operate effectively, the hours just following sunrise and approximately 2 hours before sunset are the best for flights as the winds are the lightest at those times.  If wind speed at the time of launch is more than 7 miles an hour it is too dangerous to fly.  Other conditions such as rain, fog, or thunderstorms within 100 miles will also keep the balloons grounded for safety reasons.


How do balloons fly?

Hot air balloons fly because the air inside the envelope is hotter that 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.


How is the balloon inflated?

When the time comes to put the balloon up, the envelope is removed from the bag and laid out in a long line.  The burners are attached to the uprights of the basket, and the basket is attached to the cables on the bottom of the envelope.  An engine driven fan is used to inflate the envelope with cold air.  When partially inflated, the air is heated by a burner and the envelope rises above the basket.  With further heating, there is sufficient “lift” for the balloon to fly.


How fast and how far do balloons fly?

Since the balloon travels with the wind, the balloon will only go as fast as the wind is blowing, which varies from ground level to higher altitudes.  Generally balloons will not travel much faster than 8-10 mph.  The distance the balloon travels will also depend 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.



How high do balloons fly?

Hot Air Balloons usually cruise at an altitude of 500 – 1,000 feet above ground.  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.  While balloons cannot be steered, pilots may, however, change directions by ascending or descending to pick up varying wind directions at different altitudes.


What kind of cloth is the balloon envelope made of?

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.


Why is the basket made of wicker?

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.


How do I get back to the festival?

Each balloon has a ground crew that follows the path of the balloon on the ground in the “chase” vehicle and is in contact with the balloon via radio, cellphone or GPS.  The chase crew will meet the balloon at the landing spot and help pack up the balloon.  Once the balloon is all packed up, you will get a ride back to the festival grounds in the chase vehicles.


Are there any passenger restrictions?

Passengers should be tall enough to see over the edge of the basket (about 42 inches high).  All passengers must be able to climb into and out of the basket without assistance and adopt the landing position.  As a general rule, if you can easily climb a step stool, you can take a hot air balloon ride.  Passengers should also be able to stand for at least an hour, have no medical issues that may affect your ability to participate in light physical activity, and should not be too far along in pregnancy.  Passengers must also be able to take instruction directly from the pilot without assistance.  All passengers should be sure to inform their pilot of any and all potential medical or physical problems prior to flight.  There are no weight restrictions per se, however, the pilot has final say over how much weight his balloon can safely fly with.


What should I wear?

You should dress as you would for any outdoor activity:  loose comfortable clothing with sturdy footwear.  Please no open-toed or heeled shoes or sandals; sneakers are highly recommended.  A light jacket or sweatshirt might be worth bringing for cooler morning and evenings.  The temperature up in the balloon will be about the same as it is on the ground.


What should I bring with me?

The most important thing to bring with you is a camera!  This is the best way to capture your flight experience and share it with friend and family.  There is usually very little room aboard the balloon, so anything more than a camera or small purse should be left on the ground.  If you have other personal items you can usually store them in the chase vehicle during the flight.


What happens if the flight is cancelled?

If the balloon ascension is cancelled due to weather you may either reschedule your ride for another flight time during the festival or you can receive a full refund.  The decision to cancel a flight is made within minutes of the flight so you will not be able to call ahead to find out if it is cancelled.  Please note that you must check in at the ride tent at your scheduled time to reschedule your ride or get your refund.


Who can fly a balloon?

The Federal Aviation Administration issues a Balloon Pilot Certificate to candidates who pass an FAA 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.


What is a tethered balloon ride?

Tethered balloon rides allow you to get a small taste of ballooning without leaving the festival grounds. These balloons are tied to vehicles with tether ropes about 100 feet in length.  When you get into the basket, the balloon goes up until the ropes are fully extended and then returns to the ground.  The ride lasts about 5-10 minutes.  Tethered rides are also subject to weather restrictions.  It is at the pilot's discretion as to whether or not they will allow children to take a tethered ride.


What is a hot air balloon glow?

Balloons inflate and light themselves from within. The sight of hot air balloons lit up like giant light bulbs is breathtaking. Pilots will coordinate ‘all burns’ where they fire up their burners illuminating their balloons all at once and also perform ‘count downs’.  Don't miss the glow at our festival!


If you enjoyed our festival please consider making a donation to help the fun continue while supporting our local charities.

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