State Balloon Association
Ballooning is for people who haven't been anywhere and would like to go somewhere,
What's it like to ride in a balloon? Many describe it as magical. You move gently and slowly across the landscape, seeing everything below clearly. Because you move with the wind there is no sensation of movement and no wind in the basket. It almost seems the world is slipping by beneath you and you are not moving at all. The perfect vantage and speed for great views, balloons are the best way to explore the world around you.
What are they made from? Modern hot air balloons are made from about a thousand yards of ripstop nylon or polyester and sewn together with miles of seams. The baskets are woven with wicker and most have a plywood floor. Wicker is favored because it is light, strong, and flexible.
Are they really that big? About as big as 4 houses combined! A typical hot air balloon is 55 to 60 feet in diameter, stands 70 feet tall and carries 3 to 5 people; but they come in all sizes from (relatively) tiny solo balloons to large models able to carry 22 passengers in a multi-compartment basket.
Do they really need good weather? Because balloons fly with the wind they need gentle winds to have a gentle flight. In most areas winds must be 8 knots or less to launch balloons. If it's a beautiful day for flying a kite, it's probably too windy for a balloon. Pilots also avoid any severe weather (such as thunderstorms).
When do balloons fly? Balloons launch at sunrise and a few hours before sunset. While this allows spectacular photos, the real reason is that winds are calmest at the beginning and the end of the day. Thermal activity and related winds prevent balloons from flying midday. Although it requires getting up extra early, sunrise flights are usually best.
Where do they land? You never know until you get there. That's part of the charm of ballooning, a balloon goes wherever the winds take it.
Can you steer? While there's no steering wheel, a pilot can change direction by ascending or descending into a wind going in a new direction. The air above us moves in different directions at different altitudes, allowing a balloon to shift directions by changing altitude.
Are Pilot's licensed? Yes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues licenses for flying balloons just like for airplanes. Both pilots and balloons receive periodic checkups. For more details on license requirements, see the learning to fly section.
What's the Crew do? The balloon crew helps set up the balloon, assists in the inflation and launch, then follows the balloon in the chase vehicle until it lands. When possible they secure landowner approval then help with deflation and pack up. Some people actually prefer the challenge of crewing to flying.
How can I get involved? There's several good ways. Sign up for a balloon ride or a flight lesson, visit a balloon festival and talk with the pilots, come to a GSBA meeting (next meeting), or if ballooning sounds like fun but you're not ready for a balloon ride, why not come ballooning as part of the ground crew. This means you assist in inflating and deflating the balloon as well as chasing the balloon across the countryside and sharing in the traditional champagne toasts. Regular crew members say chasing offers real excitement! To try it out, just call a local pilot and volunteer. It's that easy, and it's free.
How did most balloon pilots get started? As a member of the crew!
What's the GSBA? The Granite State Balloon Association (a non-profit organization) is an enthusiastic group of families, pilots, and crew members from the New England area who share a passion for ballooning. Anyone with an interest in balloons is invited to join. Meetings are held monthly to discuss ballooning issues and safety; often feature guest speakers, and are fun for everyone from complete novice to experienced pilots (next meeting). The GSBA also sponsors an annual Safety Seminar (BFA approved) and the Landowner Appreciation Program.
How's the Landowner Appreciation Program work? Balloons land in many interesting places. To show our appreciation of New Hampshire's landowners, after each flight GSBA pilots give out an entry form for our program. This includes a photo of balloons, details on the pilot and balloon, and a detachable post card to be mailed to the GSBA. Every year at our Christmas party a drawing is held from all the postcards returned. The winner receives their choice of a balloon ride for two people or a cash prize. This has been a great success -- you should see the surprised look on some of the winners' faces!
This page maintained by the Granite State Balloon Association. All material © 1999-2006 by the Granite State Balloon Association.