It would be fair to say that most people feel there is something magical about flying in a hot air balloon. Even those who have never done so before are aware of it, thanks to movies like the Wizard of Oz and Around the World in 80 Days that associate them with escape and adventure.
The combination of propulsion into the air followed by a slow, peaceful drift across the skies makes hot air ballooning unique and something many long to experience. But do real life balloon rides feel as wondrous as they look in Hollywood movies?
The first stage in any balloon trip is the launch. This will generally take place either very early in the day – not long after the dawn – or in the middle of it. Very few balloon operators take people up into the air later in the day, towards evening. The simple reason for this is that it has to be when visibility levels are reasonably good.
Balloons drift with the breeze once they are in the air, so wind speed is one of the most important of all weather conditions. A balloon ride in high winds would be a memorable experience but for all the wrong reasons, as the safety of everyone on board would be at risk!
Those who book a balloon ride generally get to witness launch preparations. These involve laying out and stretching the envelope before inflating the balloon at the neck using a fan. At that point the burner is lit to fill the envelope with the hot air needed to lift the balloon. Passengers climb aboard, then the ropes are untied and the trip starts. From the very beginning, you feel like you are participating in an adventure.
If you speak to anyone who has actually taken a hot air balloon trip, the word that most often comes up to describe it is ‘weightlessness.’ In that sense, it is the closest a human can get to being a bird gliding through the air on the currents of the breeze. Although it counts as a form of flight, there is little real comparison between taking a ride in a hot air balloon and flying in either an aeroplane or a helicopter.
Planes and helicopters offer smooth but noisy flight powered by engines and those travelling in the former can even forget that they are in the air. That is not possible in a hot air balloon, because you are being carried by the wind and the land below you is visible at all times.
It is a way of flying that appeals to people who want to relish every moment of being airborne and to marvel at the landscape below them. It is precisely because balloon rides are ideal for gazing at the scenery that companies offer trips in a hot air balloon over Bath, Bristol and other especially beauteous parts of the country.
Given that balloon rides are only available on days when the sky is clear, passengers are usually able to view the landscape for miles all around them. The pilot can exert some control over the balloon by adding further hot air to the envelope if needed, so passengers are in expert hands and can relax and enjoy the quiet serenity of the experience to the utmost.
If you want to get a sense of just how weightless you will feel in the cockpit of a balloon, remember that ballooning pioneer Joseph Montgolfier used the phrase “a cloud in a paper bag” to describe the experience.
Nobody who tries it ever forgets that feeling.
When the trip is drawing to a close, the balloon pilot will begin to search for the best place to land. Of course, several suitable landing sites are chosen by the pilot before taking off, but which one is used will depend on the direction that the balloon is taken by the wind.
Landing is a matter of slowly bringing the balloon down by reducing the amount of hot air that is in the envelope. Balloon rides provided by professional companies always use highly experienced pilots who know how to make the experience of coming down as comfortable as the actual trip. Balloons are usually landed at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground, because that helps to make sure that the balloon slows down more quickly.
There might be a bit of bumpiness, but nothing that will affect the overall enjoyment of the experience. Once the balloon has reached the ground, the passengers and pilot stay in the cockpit for some moments to allow the balloon to cool, but most people are in no hurry for the trip to end anyway.
Contact Bailey Balloons today to book your hot air balloon ride over Bristol, Bath or South Wales.