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Can hot air balloons fly in the rain?

26/10/2018 Mark Hot Air Balloon Rides

The ideal weather conditions for a hot air balloon flight is a fine day with light winds. If it’s raining, the flight will probably be cancelled.

The cooling effect of rain

Balloons fly because of the hot air inside the balloon canopy, which is lighter than the surrounding outside air, and this causes lift. The temperature of the balloon can reach 100°C. Rain falling on the balloon cools it down, causing the balloon to descend. To compensate, the pilot has to keep using the burner to raise the temperature of the balloon and avoid a landing.

The balloon carries a limited supply of propane that fuels the burners, so in heavy rain, there is the danger of it running out.

Safety and comfort

As rain falls down the side of the balloon, it pours into the basket, causing discomfort for the passengers.

The priority for the balloon pilot is the safety and comfort of the passengers, and rain compromises both of these factors. It is possible to fly a hot air balloon in light rain, but most operators will not do so in case the rain becomes heavier.

Storms

Unlike aeroplanes, hot air balloon pilots cannot steer away from an approaching storm. The heavy winds and rain from a storm make the balloon extremely difficult to control. Strong winds can blow the balloon over areas where there are no suitable landing spots. Not surprising, therefore, that a hot air balloon will never take off in a storm or if storms are expected.

Why are flights cancelled because of rain when the weather looks fine?

The weather conditions at the take-off site may be fine, but the pilot could still cancel the flight because of suspected rain. Pilots study detailed meteorological forecasts that are used by air pilots. These predict weather conditions in local air spaces. The weather may be good at the time and place when the balloon is scheduled to launch, but within the hour that an average flight takes, rain could be forecast. If there is a chance of rain at any point of the flight, the flight will be cancelled.

Mystery tour

A hot air balloon flight is something of a mystery tour because where the balloon goes is dependent on the wind direction. If you book a hot air balloon flight, there is no certainty that it will fly on the date booked. If the wind is too strong and rain is forecast, it will not fly at all. On the other hand, if there is no wind, the flight may be postponed as all the balloon will be able to do is go up and down.

Unfortunately, it rains a lot in the UK, which means there is always a chance of cancellation. If your flight is cancelled, an alternative date will be scheduled. On a fine day with light winds, passengers are treated to an exhilarating flight, which is a peak experience never to be forgotten. The wait for an alternative flight time is always worth it for the thrill of a lifetime.

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