Hot Air Balloons are different from other forms of aircraft. They tend to fly lower to the ground. There is no engine, rudder or a landing gear. They do not take off and land on runways. Hot Air Balloons fly with the winds Mother Nature provides. Based upon wind speed and direction, the pilot backward plans the flight. An area that affords good landing sites is selected and then the take off location is determined which will allow the balloon to fly into the landing area.
Most people assume a hot air balloon is having problems when they see it flying low. Sometimes people think they are about to “crash” when they see it descending into an open field, park, or yard. This is generally the wrong assumption.
The pilot can control the up and down altitude by using the burner. The speed and direction is controlled by the winds. The pilot may find small wind currents at different altitudes to slightly “steer” the balloon and make it change direction.
While flying, balloon pilots are always observing the ground and the air space around them. They attempt to maintain an altitude as not to disturb and scare all forms of livestock and generally do not land near them.
When the pilot selects the landing site, the descent is made to gently contact the ground and come to a stop. Wind speed plays a large part on the speed and roughness of the landing. The slower the winds, the softer the landing, the faster the winds, the harder the landing.
Generally a landing site is on private properties, such as fields, backyards, even parking lots. Balloon pilots are careful to avoid damaging your property while landing. Pilots and chase crews strive to minimize the effect they have on your property during landings and recovery of the balloon. Pilots instruct their crews to request permission before entering private property. The crew evaluates the site and confers with the land owner where they can or can’t drive the chase vehicle to recover the balloon.
If and when a balloon lands on or near your property do not hesitate to approach the basket. The pilot may ask you to assist by applying “weight” to the basket until the crew arrives. This gives you the opportunity to meet and greet the pilot and passengers.
You never know when a balloon may just decide to land in your backyard.
Wayne Gerding, Master Crew Chief, Balloon Odyssey