On September 19, 1783, the Montgolfier Brothers were the first to send aviators aloft in a hot-air balloon. Those aviators? A sheep, a duck, and a rooster!
In the 1950s, Ed Yost began development of the modern hot-air balloon which took flight in 1960.
Today, hot-air balloons take flight all over the world.
The largest and most exciting balloon event takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico each year in October. It features over 500 balloons all launching from one field.
If you’re trying ballooning for the first time, you’re in for a real treat! Phoenix hot-air balloon rides are a great adventure.
Wondering what to expect for your first ride aloft? There are a few things you should know.
Read on for information about this unforgettable experience!
Hot-air balloon flights are different from other types of flight. The pilot is at the mercy of the weather.
A storm that’s 250 miles away can affect the weather in your area. Balloon pilots fly under FAR 91.155. These are visual flight rules with no instruments.
If the weather is the slightest bit unpredictable, the pilot cancels.
If you’re planning your balloon flight while you’re on vacation, schedule it early in the trip. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have time for rescheduling.
Balloons can’t fly in strong winds. What looks like a light breeze to you may be too much for the balloon.
Timing Is Everything
Hot-air balloon rides happen early in the morning or right before sunset. During the middle of the day, the sun heats the ground and causes thermals.
Thermals are powerful rising air currents that are dangerous for balloons.
They’re not a danger until the sun has been up long enough to heat the ground. Due to asphalt parking lots and varying terrain, the ground heats in an uneven manner.
Wind is also a factor since it picks up during the day.
Most areas, though not all, are too windy for evening flights. Expect to get up early to meet your balloon pilot and other passengers.
It’s possible you’ll meet your pilot as early as 4 a.m. Don’t forget to set your alarm, and don’t hit the snooze button!
There’s no set take-off site for hot-air balloons. The pilots look at the weather and wind direction and set out looking for the best launch spot. Sometimes it takes a little while.
Take note of the weather as soon as you get up. Many places are chilly in the morning and get warm when the sun rises. Dressing in layers is a good idea when you’re going ballooning.
Depending on how high your pilot takes you, it’ll be cooler when you’re aloft. The temperature, on average, decreases about 3 degrees Fahrenheit per 1,000 feet. It might be about 10 degrees cooler in flight than on the ground.
By the time you land, the sun’s up. If it’s warm, take off the outer layers. And don’t forget your sunglasses!
How Does a Hot-Air Balloon Work?
Hot-air balloons are giant fabric “envelopes.” They’re made from Dacron or ripstop nylon. The top of the balloon is coated with a flame-resistant material.
The fabric is attached to a huge wicker basket with heavy-duty steel cables.
The basket holds propane tanks that power the burners for flight.
When you arrive at your launch destination, the pilot and crew remove the envelope and basket from the truck.
The crew removes the envelope from its bag and stretches it out across the field. The wicker basket lays on its side. The crew attaches the cables to the basket.
The crew holds the edges of the skirt open while a huge fan inflates the balloon. Upon full inflation, the pilot lights the burner. Be ready! The noise is loud and often startles people.
As the pilot sends plumes of hot air into the balloon, it slowly rises to a standing position. Most balloons stand about seven stories tall with about 90,000 cubic feet of hot air.
Once standing, the crew helps the passengers into the balloon. You’re ready for takeoff!
You’re Flying in a Wicker Basket
Yes! You’re flying thousands of feet above the ground in a wicker basket. It’s helpful if you’re a people person because you’re going to get close to the people flying with you.
There’s little room for moving around when you’re in a hot-air balloon basket. Depending on the size of the balloon, there could be up to 29 other passengers with you.
But most balloons hold from 4-15 passengers. You can’t bring a lot of stuff on board with you. But don’t forget your camera!
Don’t worry about air sickness. The balloon floats gently with the wind, so you won’t notice much movement. And you’ll be so fascinated, you won’t think about getting sick.
It’s a quiet, gentle experience, except for the sound of the burner. But the burner isn’t going all the time, only when the pilot needs to add hot air to the envelope.
Landing in a hot-air balloon is sometimes an adventure of its own. The wind plays a big part. If the wind picks up and the balloon is coming in fast, the landing is exciting.
But don’t let it scare you. Most of the time, the balloon stays upright upon landing. But sometimes the basket falls over.
Don’t lock your knees, but brace yourself and protect your camera gear!
After landing, most companies offer a champagne celebration. It includes the recitation of the Balloonist’s Prayer:
“The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”
Don’t be surprised if the pilot “christens” you with champagne!
Phoenix Hot-Air Balloon Rides Are a Blast
Now you’re ready for Phoenix hot-air balloon rides! Start your day with a fun adventure. Remember to set your alarm and dress in layers.
Be flexible in case weather disrupts the scheduled flight. Bring your camera and have a blast!
A balloon ride costs less than $200 dollars per person, but it’s well worth it. Ready for your first balloon ride? Schedule one here. or call 602-402-8041