do the hot air balloons fly?
normal season is from March to November
inclusive, with morning flights taking
off about one hour after sunrise, and
evening flights about two hours before
so early or late in the day?
flights are more enjoyable, and safer, in
the gentlest of winds. By flying at the
beginning and end of the day, we avoid the
stronger and more turbulent winds created
when the sun has warmed the air around us,
creating thermals and sea breezes.
long does the flight last?
balloon flight itself generally lasts for
45 minutes to 1 hour. Our aim, however is
to make your trip one of the most memorable
experiences possible, and thus you should
allow a total of at least 4 hours to accommodate
the additional procedures and celebrations.
should I wear?
clothing made of natural fibres suitable
for a country walk at the time of year -
trousers and long sleeves, and sturdy or
waterproof footwear. The temperature in
the air will be similar to that on the ground.
possible to select a take-off site until
day of the flight?
air balloons are carried by the breeze,
and therefore we will not know the direction
of travel until we obtain our final weather
forecast a few hours before the flight.
Once the details are to hand, we can select
the take-off site best located to give a
safe and lengthy flight.
happens if the weather is not suitable
on the day?
balloon flight is simply arranged for another
date convenient to you - most people fly
on their first chosen date, the remainder
within just a few attempts.
if the weather changes while we are in
will only fly if we can be certain that
the weather will be perfect for the flight.
Before each flight, our teams obtain highly
detailed weather forecasts from established
meteorological centres such as Bracknell
and Bristol, which are cross-referenced
with other as well as other, equally detailed,
forecasts from other sources. These forecasts
are extremely accurate over the short time
that we intend to be in the air and thus
we are able to be as certain as we can be
that we will not experience any deterioration
in the weather during the flight.
is the landing going to be like?
of the main reasons for choosing to fly
at the beginning and end of the day is to
ensure a landing speed as low as possible.
The vast majority of hot air balloon landings
are so gentle, passengers have been known
to break out in spontaneous applause at
the pilot's apparent skill and dexterity.
Very occasionally, the balloon will have
a landing speed that is just fast enough
to create a short drag or landing run, giving
rise to a few gentle bumps coming to rest.
far will we fly?
distance we fly will be dictated by the
windspeed at higher altitudes, but you can
expect to travel about between 8 and 15
miles on average.
family and friends follow?
although in practice we find that the majority
of people prefer to await the return of
the balloon and passengers to the take-off
I take a camera or video recorder?
fact, we recommend it - and don't forget
to bring a spare film! Please note, however
that personal effects are carried at your
own risk and we cannot accept any responsibility
for loss or damage to the equipment. You
will be asked to turn off any mobile telephones
before take-off, as these are a potential
hazard to our fuel systems and navigation
Balloon Flights Ltd is fully insured at
Lloyds for personal and third party risks,
and your own personal policies are normally
unaffected by the activity. As previously
mentioned, personal effects are not covered
by our policies, but again your normal insurance
arrangements usually remain valid.
there any age limits?
you are reasonably fit and mobile, age
is not a limiting factor. We often fly
people in their 80's and above. Children
are also very welcome, but we would suggest
that they should be at least 1.4 metres
tall to see over the basket.
is a balloon made of?
There are four main components of a modern
hot air balloon.
The Envelope: The main part of
the envelope is made of an extremely tough
and hardwearing nylon material. The lower
panels are normally made with Nomex, a scorch
resistant fabric. The weight of the equipment
carried beneath the envelope is spread evenly
over the surface by a series of ultra-strong
webbing load tapes and wires.
Burner: The balloons equivalent
of an engine. All our balloons are powered
by at least a twin burner unit, which have
a power output of some 20,000,000 Btu.
The Fuel System:
Our fuel is liquid propane, carried in stainless
steel fuel cylinders, and vaporised a split
second before being ignited by a pilot flame.
The Basket: Traditionally
constructed in cane and willow, reinforced
with steel cables, and topped with suede,
our baskets have partitions and padding
to carry our passengers in elegant comfort.
you steer a balloon?
and no - a balloon will always travel with
the wind, and of course we cannot beat back
into it. The wind direction, however, is
normally different at height to that on
the ground and the skilful pilot will use
that variation to alter the downwind track
as required. The general rule is that the
wind will change direction to the right
as it climbs - watch out for the effect
on your flight.
do you land a balloon?
of using the burners to keep the balloon
aloft, the pilot will allow the balloon
to cool just enough to start a controlled
descent, with the rate of descent adjusted
by the burners as required. On landing,
the pilot will operate a 'parachute' deflation
system to let enough hot air out to hold
the balloon on the ground until the retrieve
you have to speak to Air Traffic Control?
providing we stay clear of airways and airport
control areas. The large clear spaces between
and under the controlled areas are free
airspace, and we are allowed to operate
without being in touch with air traffic
do you navigate?
the slow speed that a balloon travels, combined
with the tremendous distance that you can
see at height, navigation is in fact quite
straightforward. We use standard Ordinance
Survey maps, and our crew are also trained
in the use of these to make the retrieve
do you get to be a pilot?
majority of pilots start out as private
pilots, having qualified in smaller balloons
and building up hours flying friends and
family, perhaps then gaining some commercial
experience by flying display balloons. A
commercial pilot will have undergone a further
series of examinations and flight tests,
and is then only likely to be employed by
Airborne after extensive experience has
been gained on the types of balloons flown
governs Airborne and other operators?
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) maintains
overall control, with most of the administrative
duties delegated to the British Balloon
and Airship club. Airborne has been granted
an Air Operators Certificate by the CAA,
who also undertake annual inspections of
our pilots, equipment and administration.