Wherever you are in the US you can find companies that provide hot air balloon rides. If you Google looking for hot air balloon rides in your area you will typically find at least one company (there are two locations in Seattle where you can ride a hot air balloon and six companies in Washington state); if you want to attend a rally or hot air balloon event before your ride you are going to find hot air balloon rallies and events at HotAirBalloon.com which lists them worldwide…Your first ride in a hot air balloon truly defies your imagination.
Hot Air Balloon Ride: Here’s What You Can Expect
The Inflation and Launch Process
At the launch site, the pilot assesses the weather and is the one to begin the launch process. The basket and balloon envelope are laid out so the wind aids in the inflation process. The pilot connects and checks all components to ensure a safe balloon ride (this is not unlike the walk around your pilot does on a commercial airline flight).
Once the balloon is ready to inflate, a high-powered inflation fan forces air into the balloon envelope; this requires two people to help hold the envelope open. You need to have your camera ready so you can start taking pictures at about this time. Just like riding on a commercial jet you need to listen to the pilot and crew to ensure your safety.
Your Typical Hot Air Balloon Experience
Once the balloon envelope is full of air, the pilot will light the burner and bring the balloon upright by blowing fire into the envelope from the propane tanks.
You will now climb into the balloon gondola and wait for takeoff. Again, you want to have your camera or your cell phone ready so you can take lots of photos. Depending on the weather you want to layer your clothing appropriately so you are comfortable, and please use the restroom before leaving the ground. If you follow these two bits of advice you will have an amazing experience.
The Actual Flight
Most passengers don’t realize how peaceful and majestic a hot air balloon flight really is. Since you travel with the wind, gliding through the air at low and high altitudes, the only time you feel the breeze is when you change altitude and the wind speed changes.
At times, you may skim the trees, and you will also soar to several thousand feet (where you can begin to see the Earth’s curvature), and even dip the gondola in a lake or pond (this is called a “splash and dash”).
The landing is the most exciting part of the hot air balloon experience. The pilot will spot out a landing site based on time-of-day, and geographical knowledge attained from flying in the area. Your landing will vary depending on the wind speed and terrain.
In calm winds, there may be a “stand up landing”, meaning that the balloon will calmly rest on the ground with little to no impact.
If you land in a moderate wind condition, the pilot may instruct you to crouch down, turn sideways from the approaching ground, and bend your knees slightly to soften the impact. The balloon may drag and turn sideways if there is a moderate to high wind landing.
Life is such a gift…Enjoy your ride.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015