FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can you steer the balloon?

A: Yes and no.  There is no direct mechanical means of controlling lateral movement for a hot air balloon, but a change in direction can be achieved by utilizing the wind currents at hand.  Sometimes, at different altitudes, the wind will vary in general direction.  By climbing or descending into these layers of air, the pilot is able to manoeuvre the balloon onto a preferred line of travel.

Q: How long are the flights?

A: On average, flights are approximately one hour in length.  Some flights can vary from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the amount of fuel on board, the passengers’ combined weight, the temperature of the air and when the pilot finds a suitable landing field.

Q: What time of day do the flights take place?

A: Flights take place at sunrise and approximately 2 hours prior to sunset.  Hot air balloons are not able to fly during the middle of the day due to thermal activity, which makes the air unstable.

Q: What type of weather conditions are needed to fly in a hot air balloon?

A: Hot air balloon flights take place in winds less than 10 knots (about 18 kph), with no rain or approaching storms in the immediate area.  Flights also require visibility of at least 4 km.

Q: What type of clothing should we wear?

A: Special clothing is not required for hot air ballooning.  We suggest practical wear, such as long pants, a light jacket, a hat and flat shoes (no sandals or high heels).  We do not fly high enough for a significant change in temperature so plan to dress for the temperature of the day.

Q: Can I bring my camera and binoculars?

A: Yes, we encourage it.  Some of the greatest pictures of the surrounding area can be taken from 500 feet in the air.  Don’t forget to bring batteries for your camera and a protective case for landing.

Q: Can you fly during the winter?

A: Yes, some of the best flights take place during the fall and winter months.  During this time, visibility is usually unlimited.

Q: Is it cold up there?

A: No, it is usually the same temperature on the ground as it is in the air.  The temperature only begins to drop when you fly very high.

Q: How big is the hot air balloon?

A: A small hot air balloon is 77,000 cubic feet and is approximately 80 feet high and 60 feet in diameter.  An average of 3 passengers and the pilot can fly in a balloon of this size.  Some larger balloons can carry 8-12 passengers.

Q: What makes the hot air balloon rise?

A: Hot air! High-powered propane burners heat the air inside the balloon making it less dense than the outside air, allowing the balloon to rise.  The burners create 20+ million BTU’s of heat.  In comparison, an average home barbecue generates 30,000 BTU’s.  Each flight uses approximately 100 litres of propane.

Q: How fast do you fly?

A: The balloon travels the same speed as the wind.  An average flight is approximately 15 km in length.

Q: Can anyone fly the balloon?

A: To fly a hot air balloon you must be a licensed balloon pilot.  Much like a fixed wing pilot, balloon pilots go through extensive training including ground school, written exams and hands-on flying.  A balloon pilot must have a minimum of 50 hours experience to fly passengers in Canada.

Q: What is the balloon made of?

A: Balloons are made from rip-stop nylon much like a winter ski jacket.  Unlike a jacket, the balloon is coated to help it resist heat and mildew, and to last longer.  Balloons have an average life expectancy of 300 hours of use.  Manufacturers have many different colours of fabric to choose from to create the many different patterns seen flying through the sky.

Q: How high do you fly?

A: Though the altitude record for hot air ballooning is greater than 90,000 feet, the height of passenger flights range anywhere from treetop height up to 2,500 feet.

What Are The Tasks?

These can vary depending on the level of competition you are in but most countries now use the same set of formally recognised tasks, which are set by the FAI/CIA.  Listed below are many of the more common tasks currently being used by the world ballooning competition organizations:

Pilot Declared Goal (PDG): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to a goal selected and declared by him before flight.  The result is the distance from the mark to nearest valid declared goal.  Smallest result is best.

Judge Declared Goal (JDG): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to a set goal.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target, if displayed, or goal.  Smallest result is best.

Multiple Judge Declared Goal (MJDG) or Hesitation Waltz (HWZ): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to one of several set goals.  The result is the distance from the mark to the nearest target, if displayed, or goal.  Smallest result is best.

Fly In (FIN): Competitors find their own launch areas and attempt to drop a marker close to a set goal or target.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target, if displayed, or goal.  Smallest result is best.

Fly On (FON): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to a goal selected and declared by them during flight.  The result is the distance from the mark to the nearest valid declared goal.  Smallest result is best.  The competitor must write clearly on the previous marker the declared goal for fly on.  If the previous marker is not dropped or no goal is written on the marker the competitor will not achieve a result.

Hare and Hounds (HNH): Competitors follow a hare balloon and attempt to drop a marker close to a target displayed by the hare no more than two meters upwind of the basket after landing.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target.  Smallest result is best.

Watership Down (WSD): Competitors fly to the launch point of a hare balloon, follow the hare and attempt to drop a marker close to a target displayed by the hare no more than two meters upwind of the basket after landing.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target.  Smallest result is best.

Gordon Bennett Memorial (GBM): Competitors attempt to drop a marker within a scoring area(s) close to a set goal.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target, if displayed, or goal.  Smallest result is best.

Calculated Rate of Approach Task (CRAT): Competitors attempt to drop a marker within a valid scoring area close to a set goal.  The scoring area(s) will have unique times of validity.  The result is the distance from the mark to the target, if displayed, or goal.  Smallest result is best.  A competitor who does not achieve a mark inside a scoring area during its time of validity, will not achieve a result.

Race To An Area (RTA): Competitors attempt to drop a marker in the shortest time within a scoring area(s).  The result is the elapsed time from take off to the marker drop.  Smallest result is best.  The timing ends at the moment the marker is released, falling or on the ground as seen by the observer or recovered in the hands of the observer whichever is first.

Elbow (ELB): Competitors attempt to achieve the greatest change of direction in flight.  The result is 180 degrees minus the angle ABC.  Greatest result is best.

Land Run (LRN): Competitors attempt to achieve the greatest area of a triangle “A”, “B” and “C.”  The result is the area of triangle ABC.  Greatest result is best.

Minimum Distance (MDT): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to the common launch point, after flying a minimum set time.  The result is the distance from the mark to the launch point.  Smallest result is best.

Shortest Flight (SFL): Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to the launch point within a set scoring area(s).  The result is the distance from the mark to the launch point.  Smallest result is best.

Minimum Distance Double Drop (MDD): Competitors attempt to drop two markers close together in different scoring areas.  The result is the distance between the marks.  Smallest result is best.