There is no definitive answer to the question of how far a hot air balloon can fly. For a pleasure flight, the distance travelled is dependent on the wind speed. It’s not safe to fly at winds above about 10 miles per hour. If there is no or very little wind, the balloon will not fly far.
Most balloon flights last about an hour in the air, travelling at a height of between 500 and 2,500 feet. The wind speed will vary at different altitudes. In general, the balloon will fly a distance between five and ten miles, which means that on an hour’s flight the balloon flies at spends between five and ten miles an hour.
A hot air balloon flight is not a high-speed thrill ride, it is a relaxing but exhilarating experience. The point of a flight is the journey, not how fast or how far you travel. In an hour’s flight, there is plenty of different beautiful scenery to look at.
In 2015, Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev flew in a balloon from Japan to Mexico – a distance of 5,209 miles – which set a new world record for the farthest distance a hot air balloon has flown. It took them over six days to fly this distance. To fly this far, they used a helium balloon especially adapted for the long journey.
The highest altitude a manned hot air balloon has flown is 41,424 metres. This was piloted by Alan Eustace, a senior vice president with Google. After he reached that height, he parachuted back to earth.
Hot air balloon distance records are not open to members of the public, because they involve specialist equipment and highly trained pilots and crew.
One company, World View, aims to change this by developing a hot air balloon that carries a pressurised capsule that will take passengers to over 30,000 feet above the Earth, which is the edge of space. At that height, passengers will be clearly able to see the curvature of the Earth in a similar way to how astronauts see the planet from the International Space Station.
The company has tested its balloons but has not yet announced when the first high altitude hot air balloon flights open to paying passengers will take off.
A hot air balloon flight is a form of flying where people love the fact that they do not know where or how far they will travel. The speed and direction of the wind determine the course and how far the balloon travels.
As the balloon nears the end of its journey, the ground crew and pilot look for a suitable landing site. At this point, the pilot is not concerned about how far the balloon travels, the priority is to land the balloon in the best spot for a smooth and safe landing.