View Full Version : Hot Air Balloon Rides

11-21-2010, 03:47 AM
In my WIP, several of the characters go on a balloon ride. I've never been on one. I've looked up basic information including the usual length of rides and the mechanics of the balloon. Can anyone think of anything else I should know, especially related to the senses? I imagine it will be very cold. Does the basket rock a lot? Any details would be appreciated. Thanks.

11-21-2010, 04:01 AM
Where is this balloon ride? I think that's going to influence things.

I've been on one in Kenya; it was cut short because it started drifting and would have crossed a national boundary.

It wasn't very cold (comfortable in a regular outer jacker); it was quite stable (easy to take photos); it felt slow. The view was like being at the top of a tall building, if the tall building was drifting slowly across a plain criss-crossed with trails and low scrub.

The landing was rougher than I expected, with the basket tipping over quite hard. I'd read of old people going on these rides, but I think I wouldn't encourage anyone to go who couldn't take a fairly sharp impact. It was fine for me, but if someone had say a sensitive back or something, I can see how it might be painful.

I suggest looking for blog-posts from people who have taken balloon rides, and looking up photographs.

11-21-2010, 04:25 AM
It's Oregon (near the coast and the Washington border) in October, so the temperature at ground level should be in the 60s.

Thanks for your help Keyan, especially the details on the landing. That will help.

11-21-2010, 04:43 AM
They're louder than I expected, when the the burner is going. So instead of floating tranquilly over the landscape, you float tranquilly, then there's a loud hissing as the burner goes, then quiet, then hissing...

11-21-2010, 04:49 AM
Thanks, Kate. That's a great detail.

11-21-2010, 05:00 AM
Hi Ferret,

This may be quite good for you.


It's from Top Gear, a car show, but it shows some of the problems in hot air balooning. Or is that ballooning?

Incidentally, looking for this link, I found that James Burke is on youTube. Brilliant. I'm off to watch Connections now.



11-21-2010, 04:57 PM
I have not been on one, but I believe the hot air balloonists prefer early mornings and evenings when turbulence is at a minimum. They are also restricted to pretty calm conditions. There is the occasional flotilla of these things that drifts over my house and, as Kate said, the burners are pretty loud - it sounds like a roar from ground level (I always hear them before I see them). They tend to stay pretty low, so I don't suppose it will be cold so much as draughty. One think worth thinking about is they come in all shapes (literally), such as giant coke bottles, light bulbs, loaves of bread, etc.

This website is worth a look.


11-21-2010, 07:48 PM
I went up in one in NZ, right after dawn. We were soon higher than the mountains (which is amazing, let me tell you) but it didn't feel like we were going fast.

We drifted along, and I had to not think about the fact that the only thing between me and plummeting to my death was a heavy woven basket. I'm a bit afraid of heights... or more specifically of falling ;) But the scenery soothed me and I really enjoyed it.

Our landing wasn't at all rough, and a lot depends on the skill of the pilot and the weather conditions.

Filling the hot air balloon and letting the air out took up a bit of time and it was fun to watch too.

11-21-2010, 10:38 PM
I'm a bit afraid of heights... or more specifically of falling ;)
The falling is not a problem; it is hitting the ground that does the damage (says he who is almost too frightened to climb a ladder).

11-21-2010, 10:47 PM
I went on a balloon ride, years ago, in Surrey. We went up in the evening. It was a gentle ride, the balloon rose slowly and drifted slowly. The 'pilot' had a map which showed which fields were best to land in. (e.g. don't land in a field full of crops, the farmer will be angry). We were up for about half an hour and then we put down in a field. We came in quite steeply because it was a narrow field so the basket tipped over, but it was big and it was padded. The best bit was the champagne after. :D

One thing I remember was the pilot pointed to another balloon as we were descending. It was still aloft and we could see the flame from its burner. He said that if the flame was visible, then it getting too dark for the balloon to be up.

11-21-2010, 11:56 PM
I was on one in Egypt, although our first attempt was aborted because they couldn't get the balloon inflated. Something to do with high winds, they said. We went out about 4.30am for that one, and spent about two hours watching them trying to get this thing up.

When we actually got the trip it was pretty smooth, barely any kind of turbulence or whatever and I remember being surprised by how little kind of sensation of movement there was when we were actually travelling. I had a bit of trouble getting into the basket, as you had to climb up using kind of holes in the actual wicker work, and I'm quite small so it was a chore, and ended up getting a 'help' from the captain. The view was spectacular though, but I remember it was really cold even in a climate that was getting up to 50C during the height of the day.

11-22-2010, 12:55 AM
Thanks everyone. This information, paired with the information I got through my internet searches, is giving me a good feel for what it would be like. I've just started writing this section of the WIP, and it's going well.

11-22-2010, 01:15 AM
Here in the midwest there is an annual balloonfest. Almost all the flights occur around dawn and then late afternoon. It's a weather/wind thing.

I went on a just after dawn flight a few years ago. It was just barely light when we started unfolding the canopy and setting up the basket. We flew for about an hour. There was the dull roar of the burners, the absolute silence that followed, and the light whip of the occasional breeze. One of the things that surprised me was how well we could hear the ground, like a group of kids yelling up and waving.

But mostly the silence was broken by contacts with the chase team, the folks with the cargo van that had carried the balloon rig to the launch point and the SUV with three other people in it, that followed them. Near the end of the flight there was a constant back and forth on radios of

"The next crossroad will get us into the target field."
"Nope, we're gonna overshoot that one, meet me on the other side of the tree line."

A skilled combination of pulling the overhead lines to vent hot air, and tapping the gas -- you tap, a moment passes, and the balloon responds, put us within twenty five feet of the target point, an imagined spot in a farmer's backyard.

And then we've dropped the lines and people are shouting "Pull us in! Everybody on a line! Don't let us drift into the trees/barn/pond whatever."

More venting, and the chase crew keeps us in place while we lower to the ground.

There's this excitement and exuberance that manages to last even through the having to clean it up and stow it all away, and get out of the farmer's yard.

"Chasing" is fun, too. Especially with longer flights. Combinations of road atlases, county maps, GPS and cell phone Google mapping (because it's a puzzle in a maze and you aren't going to trust just one source.) And all of that coming down to the last, maybe two minutes where you have to discover, exactly where is the landing site going to be, can we get into there (sure, from the sky you can just drop in -- that doesn't help the road crew get past the gates, fences, and ravines), then how fast can you get out of the truck, get weight on the lines and bring these guys down safely.

11-22-2010, 09:56 PM
Check out the Albuquerque balloon fiesta, too. One of (if not the) world's largest. We went up in a balloon in the Philly suburbs. It rises so fast you are suddenly aloft, not like in a plane. The burner does woosh. Landing can be problematic, as there have been accidents when balloons hit electrical wires or landed in other than a field. For the most past they are safe. Another thing....you see the perfect shadow of the balloon below you as you move.

11-22-2010, 10:09 PM
I won a balloon ride during a medieval faire in England. I was so terrified before the balloon lifted off, I was willing to let someone take my place! But I'm not one to chicken out. The instant the balloon barely lifted from the ground, my terror vanished. The smoothness of the liftoff was exhilarating.

The English countryside was so green, and I could see all the gulchs and where the hillsides had been excavated over the centuries.

The one thing that struck me was how quiet it was. I could hear sounds from miles away. Even though we were up about a thousand feet above the land, I could hear people talking on the ground and even a dog barking from a long way away!

The basket never swayed. The booming hiss of the flame when the pilot touched it. I actually leaned over the edge at one point to holler at someone on the ground, "Which way to London?"

The landing was very smooth (this is one pilot who KNEW how to land!), and the basket stayed upright. In the next field, cows came running over to watch this mysterious object land near them. The whole time we packed up the balloon and the basket, the cows stayed by the fence, chewing their cud, their eyes never left us!

11-22-2010, 10:15 PM
I concur with everyone else's experience. Been ballooning twice. Typically flights are early morning or late evening to take advantage of still, cooler air. The ride is smooth and eerily silent - punctuated by the roar of the propane burners. Landings depend on lateral speed and pilot competence. In still air, they can be quite soft. Sounds ARE easily heard.

Because the craft is moving WITH the air, there is almost no sense of a breeze - so it seems very 'still' even when you are moving relative to the ground. You can only feel slight changes in direction and speed before the balloon responds.

For reference sake - the balloon is called 'the envelope' when pilots talk about it.