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Ballooning needs stable winds to operate effectively and the hours just following sunrise are the best for finding these calm gentle winds. In some parts of the world hot air balloons also fly best in the hours just before sunset. The weather is cooler then and the balloon flies better in cooler weather since the hot air gets a better "lift."
In addition, hot air balloon rides include the splendor of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Today you can find ballooning experiences all over the world making this one of the most wonderful adventure travel experiences. The best part is that anyone can do it because it doesn't include the physical strain of many other adventure travel activities like caving, hiking or snorkeling. Seeing scenery from on high in Turkey, New Zealand and in the tropics will give you a birds eye view and some wonderful memory making opportunities.
Is ballooning safe?
Balloon pilots need a commercial pilot's licence (fixed-wing) to fly hot air balloons.
* They must have at least 35 hours of flight instruction
* Attend ground school for basic aviation training
* Pass a written test for hot air balloons and have a flight check.
So as long as the pilot is qualified you are in very safe hands. In fact the hot air balloon pilots are so skilled at piloting a balloon that they can brush the bottom of the basket across the tops of a bush so gently that the occupants can pick a leaf as a souvenir of your hot air ballooning experience.
A lot of the work in hot air ballooning comes at the beginning and the end of the flight, when the crew inflates and deflates the hot air balloon. For the spectator, this is much more spectacular than the actual hot air ballooning experience.
Passengers are traditionally asked to help with the setup and inflation of the balloon, also with the milking (squeezing out the air) of the balloon after landing. Balloonists traditionally end the flight with a toast of champagne, a practice dating back to the 1700's.
When you are planning your adventure filled vacation and your hot air balloon excursion, don't forget your binoculars and camera equipment! If you can, bring a high quality telephoto lens so you can capture both the broad landscape and any specific details that catch your eye. Birding and wildlife spotting may also be possible so be prepared with you bird and wildlife guide and your binoculars to get the most out of your ballooning adventure.
Hot air ballooning is an adventure that rides with the wind, and to move the hot air balloon in a particular direction, the pilot ascends and descends to find the appropriate wind direction.
Pilots call the weather service to get a rough idea of which way the balloon will travel, and how they should maneuver once they're in the air. Members of the hot air balloon crew follow the balloon by car to see where it lands to collect the passengers and equipment, usually about 15 miles from the launch site. The pilot discusses possible landing sites with the ground crew by radio link. They look for a wide open space with plenty of room to lay out the balloon.
As soon as the balloon is in the air, the pilot is constantly looking for suitable landing sites, in case there is an emergency.
Ballooning is a wonderful way to see the grandeur of a country's wilderness from the air without the noise pollution attributed to planes and helicoptors. Because ballooning is more stealthy, you will probably have the opportunity to see more wildlife and better appreciate nature at its most beautiful.
Dress warmly and casually for a hot air balloon flights. Pants, sturdy flat shoes and layers of shirt, sweater, jacket are ideal.
Generally during a hot air balloon flight it gets colder by about 3.5 degrees colder for each 1,000 feet of altitude. Balloons fly from just about tree level height to about 3,000 feet. Carry cameras and lots of film, and have a suitable soft case with you in which to stow the camera during the landing.
Initially some people can be worried about heights. Let the hot air balloon pilot know before the flight, and they will stay low until you are comfortable. Sometimes passengers aren't even aware they have left the ground. As the balloon is moving with the wind, there is no turbulence so that you could not possibly fall out of the basket. The ride is so smooth that you hardly feel the slightest breeze making this a wonderful, gentle adventure travel option.
Every year thousands of people flock to Hudson, Wisconsin to celebrate the only winter balloon festival in the Midwest. The annual Hudson Hot Air Affair takes place in early February on the scenic shores of the St. Croix River Valley. Each year the Hudson Hot Air Affair has a theme such as ‘Peace, Love & Balloons', ‘Mardi Gras…Balloons & All That Jazz', and ‘The Roaring Twenties'. Over 40 balloon pilots from around the nation participate in the festival.
Local businesses begin the festivities the week before the celebration with kick off events, ski and hiking races, and other fun activities. During the weekend of the affair visitors can enjoy the morning and evening hot air balloon launches, shop, eat, watch an evening parade, attend concerts, try their hand at geocaching, or participate in a smoosh boarding race.
Every year, during the first week of October, the skies above Albuquerque fill up with a magnificent array of colorful hot air balloons.
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 when 13 participants launched from a mall parking lot. The event has ballooned into an annual event with over 600 participants launching from their own 365-acre ‘Balloon Fiesta Park'. The 9 day long Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon event in the world.
There are balloon launchings throughout the day and night, and a variety of different themed launches like the ‘Special Shape Rodeo'. Visitors can picnic at the park, walk through the balloons as they prepare to launch, and even sign up to help pilots prepare for take off and deflate the balloons after landing.