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            The Flight


Passengers enjoy a fantastic ride!


What to expect on your ballooning experience

There are four phases to the typical hot air balloon flight, they are: unpacking and set up, cold and hot inflation, flight, deflation and pack up. The only time we kindly request the help of two volunteer passengers is during the cold and hot inflation phase. Our experienced crew handles unpacking and pack-up of the balloon.

Unpacking and set up

The balloon is stored in a cargo trailer that is towed by the chase vehicle. Once we arrive at the selected launch site, the pilot and crew will unload the basket, balloon and fans. The envelope is unloaded first, followed by the basket and the inflation fans. Once the basket and burners have been assembled and the passengers have been briefed, the basket is laid on its side. The envelope is attached to the basket and pulled out on to the launch field in preparation for inflation. The basket will be upright after the balloon is inflated and before the passengers are asked to board.


Unpacking and set up of balloon

Cold and hot inflation

During "cold air" inflation we use two powerful gasoline powered fans to fill the balloon envelope with ambient air. Volunteer passengers are asked to simply hold the "mouth" of the balloon open so that the fans can fill the inside of the balloon. The process of holding the mouth open is simple and fun. Once the balloon is filled with ambient air, we ignite the propane burners to heat the air inside the balloon. As the air is heated, the balloon starts to rise above the passenger basket which it is attached to. The concept is simple, the trapped heated air inside the balloon rises.The basket will be upright once the balloon is completely inflated and before the passengers are asked to board.


Cold air inflation with volunteers holding balloon "mouth" open


   Balloon hot inflation


Once the balloon is ready for flight, we kindly ask passengers to board the balloon as it was demonstrated during the pre-flight breifing. As passengers board, the pilot will continue to operate the burners in order to maintain heat inside the balloon and prepare for takeoff. Once inside the basket, find a comfortable spot. Everyone is guaranteed a "window seat." 

As the balloon takes off, enjoy the views as your balloon ride adventure begins and the earth seemingly "falls"below you. Because a balloon drifts with the stream of air around it, there is very little sensation of movement during flight. It can best be described as a magic carpet ride.

During the flight, the pilot will operate the burners to maintain altitude, gain altitude or control the rate of descent. The balloon is also allowed to cool in order to decrease altitude or increase the rate of descent. A vent valve at the very top of the balloon can also be used to control rate of ascent and descent. The vent valve allows the pilot to vent hot air at the top of the balloon. The vent valve is also used to deflate the balloon after landing. Two rotation vents on the side of the balloon allow the pilot to rotate the basket by venting hot air from the sides of the balloon. Color coded control lines in the basket allow the pilot to operate the vent valve and the left/right rotation vents.

Balloon deflation port as seen from inside the gondola

The rotation vents are not used for steering the balloon. Steering of the balloon is accomplished by changing altitude and utilizing  variable wind direction and speed at various altitudes. The pilot plans the flight based on the prevailing wind direction and speed and can "steer" the balloon with some accuracy towards desired landing areas. A portable GPS (Global Position System) unit is also used by the pilot to more accurately navigate the balloon. An altimeter and vertical speed indicator are also part of the basic instruments carried on board the balloon.

The altitude attained during the flight will depend on the prevailing weather conditions during the flight. The balloon will fly as low as a few inches above farm fields in open areas and as high as several thousand feet. On a typical flight the balloon will travel 3 to12 miles depending on wind direction, speed and altitude. The chase vehicle and ground crew will follow the balloon during the flight.Upon landing the chase vehicle and crew will meet the balloon to commence deflation and pack up.  


Variable wind illustration (left) and balloon basket "fisheye" view during flight (right)

Deflation and pack-up   

After landing, the balloon will be deflated using the vent valve at the top of the envelope.The crew may or may not lay down a deflation tarp depending on the condition of the landing site. The tarp is used to protect the balloon fabric from moisture and sharp objects. After the deflation the balloon will be squeezed by the crew and repacked into the storage bag. The basket will be disassembleld and the entire balloon system will be placed back in the trailer. Pack up of the balloon usually takes 20-30 minutes. Passenger may volunteer to help pack up the balloon, however, the are not required to participate. Please follow crew instructions if you decide to help. After pack up, we will proceed to our picnic location for a celebration of the ballooning experience!


Balloon being deflated and packed

Picnic celebration

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