I got married last year and one of the things I wanted to do was take my new wife on a Hot Air Balloon ride. I had been on one some years ago and got interested in the sport. So I arranged the day out as a bit of a surprise for her. The first thing to remember is never surprise your wife in this manner some people are not very comfortable about being put in a basket and floating very high over the ground.
After overcoming some initial shock at thought of having this trip and the other problem of being up very early in the morning we joined our fellow ballooners in the safety briefing this is a very necessary part of the trip and takes a good half an hour. I chose a firm with a good reputation as there are some quite strict regulations governing Hot Air Balloon Flights make sure that the company are CAA certified and that if you want you can examine the pilot's logs and qualifications.
Most companies like people who take a very understanding in the procedures and qualifications of pilots and this helps to reassure yourself that you are in safe hands. I enjoy a number of risky sports including diving etc where you have to have the correct training to proceed. The good thing about this sport is it's a get involved sport the unpacking and spreading out of the balloon requires the passengers to volunteer to help out and also the packing away.
The pilot assembles the balloon components and starts up the procedure for filling the envelope with Hot Air and quite soon you can see it take shape. After a critical point the basket is raised upright just after the point where the envelope is starting to sit upright and in the take off position. A few minutes later and we are all invited into the basket carefully as the weight distribution is important and the balance has to be right. Soon the anchors are released and that odd moment where you feel rising slowly into the air.
The pilot blasts a good amount of hot air to assist the raise and off we go just as the sun starts to rise into the air. Hot Air ballooning is done at sunrise or just before sunset as this is the most stable time for air flow and it's the air flows at different heights that allow the balloon to be controlled in the direction that is required.
Watching the world from the basket is fascinating, looking down at the world below just as the traffic starts to form the morning rush hour. As you slowly drift over the land the traffic slowly winds across the road except we drift with the wind and appear to be going faster than those below. Hot Air Ballooning is the original way that man has learnt to fly and certainly the most graceful having a breakfast thousands of feet in the air is something else it's not a warm sport and you have to wrap up well and bring a hat.
There are a lot of good firms in Britain that provide balloon flights and flights they if you check out their safety and training and peoples recommendations than the one you choose will have a grand day out. Of course eventually what goes up must come down and that's the part that makes your heart pound a bit more than usual mainly you know you are going to crash of a sort a controlled crash.
The pilot points off into the distance and we head for a large field in the distance and he signals the tracking vehicle that's roughly where we are going to land and starts to make sure that the hot air is supplied less frequently and we drift down slowly to a bump landing. The controlled descent is very nerve racking as you sometimes feel that you could just drop from the sky but it's very gentle in the end most of the time the basket does land upright. Once on the ground everyone helps in rounding up the envelope and the tracking vehicle takes us all back to the base.
It's a great day out and well worth it just try to consider that try to find a company that does a trip near say a castle or lakes or other interesting features of the landscape best viewed from the air. Get into to the air and have a fantastic flight.
Andy Bolton http://www.bravemain.com Hot Air Balloons