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Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloon
Look!

Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

It’s a balloon??

This planet is a beautiful place and there a lot of ways to see it. From about 1000 feet up is one great way.

My first experience with a hot air balloon was when some friends talked my wife and I into going to watch a balloon flight. I didn’t realize that you do not just go and watch. We followed the balloon along with the chase crew until the balloon landed and then helped pack things up. That was the end of “watching“. We spent the next several years crewing for the balloon.

You can enjoy hot air ballooning in a number of ways. Just taking a flight is one way. Even if you have flown by airplane or other means, a balloon flight is a unique experience. The peaceful quite broken only by the sound of the burners or the noises rising up from the ground is relaxing. The 360 degree view is breathtaking and you are close enough to the ground to see what is going on. You can even hear animals making noises and people can talk to you. You might think you are too close to the ground, but you are well above the trees. Of course, if you really don’t want that much involvement, you can just watch. 😀

You might be thinking that you could never ride in a hot air balloon because you are afraid of heights. This isn’t always the case. The lift off (launch) of the balloon is slow and steady so you really don’t feel the movement. If you look straight out you would not notice that you are off the ground. Since you are moving with the breeze, you don’t feel wind on you. The sensation has been described as a slow elevator ride. 🙂

As I said, my wife and I went to watch the balloon flight and ended up crewing . Most balloon pilots fly for the fun of it and can’t afford to pay for a full time crew. They rely on friends and volunteers to “crew” the balloon. There is a good amount of work involved to get a balloon in the air. The crew helps put the aircraft together under the instruction of the pilot, follow (chase) the balloon from the ground until it lands and then take everything apart and pack it all back up. Many pilots will treat their crew to breakfast or dinner after the flight and give crew members a free ride on a rotating basis.

Balloon flights take place about sunrise or a couple of hours before sunset when the wind is the calmest and last about an hour. With a bag full of hot air the height of a six story building, you do not want a lot of wind. Below five mile per hour is best.Ten MPH or above is not happening with me as a crew member. 😉

If you want to crew a balloon, do a search for hot air balloons in your area. There is a good chance you will find at least one. Contact the pilot and tell them that you want to learn to crew a balloon. Balloon pilots and crew usually love to teach people about what they do. Be willing to learn. Crewing for a hot air balloon is fun and hard work. Plan to crew several flights before you get a ride.

Another way to get a ride is to volunteer to crew at a hot air balloon festival. There are always balloons in need of crew at a festival and most festivals have a place to register as a volunteer crew person. Don’t go expecting to get a ride. Just go to enjoy the experience and hope for a ride.

If you just want a ride, check your local area for pilots that offer that service. Don’t miss out on a chance to ride in a hot air balloon.

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