Hot Air Balloons ~ Book A Ride!
2016 Special Shapes
The Balloonist's Prayer
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
2016 Corporate Balloons
Common Questions about Hot Air Balloon Rides at Carolina BalloonFest...
1) What is the cost of a hot air balloon ride?
$250.00 each passenger.
2) How do I Book A Ride?
Please contact a participating "Book A Ride!" pilot below for additional ride & flight information. Payment & flight arrangements are managed between passenger(s) and pilot(s). Additional 2016 ride pilots to be announced...
3) Is admission to Carolina BalloonFest included with my flight?
No. Carolina BalloonFest admission tickets are sold separately. PURCHASE TICKETS >
4) Do I need to reserve a Tether Hot Air Balloon Ride?
No reservations are required for tether rides. Guests wait in line for this experience and pay cash to the pilot/crew. Learn more at Tethered Rides page.
5) Why do flights only take place in the morning and late afternoon?
Balloons require stable winds to operate effectively. The hours following sunrise and approximately 2 hours before sunset are the best for finding these winds to ride. Since balloons move with the air, weather is very important in flight decisions. The pilot chooses a launch site and uses the wind currents to fly towards a suitable landing site. A balloon flies better in cooler weather, as the hot air gets a better ‘lift’. Learn About Ballooning >
6) May I Volunteer on a Balloon Crew?
Yes! Volunteer Balloon Crew Registration 2016 is open. Volunteer benefits include BIG fun, free admission & special parking on your volunteer day! CONTACT US >
2016 Ride Pilots
Tether Ride Pilots
Learn more about Tether Balloon Rides
About Hot Air Balloon Competitions
"How do balloons race?" Balloon competitions are scored by how close a pilot drops a small weighted marker near a pre-determined target. The challenge is to be the closest to the target. However, unlike all other forms of flying, balloon pilots do not have direct control of their flight direction, since the balloon simply drifts with the wind.
Competition pilots are very skilled in reading the winds they sail to their advantage to get where they want to be – nearest the target! Quite often, the difference between first, second, third or fourth place can be fractions of an inch.
Competition directors have developed extremely complicated tasks for pilots to accomplish. Pilots lose points for rules violations, although they may have flown very well. Here are a few tasks competitors may be assigned to fly. The first four are fairly easy and are very popular at festivals which offer light competition. National and world championships offer more challenging tasks to earn for awards.
Hare and Hound. All the balloons launch from the same site, usually a festival. One balloon takes off first and is the hare balloon. The other balloons are called the hounds, and they will launch a predetermined time after the hare. The hare lands at a suitable site and lays out a large fabric X, usually about 50 feet in diameter. The hound balloons attempt to drop their markers as close to the center of the X as possible. The closest marker achieves the highest score.
Convergent Navigational Task (CNT). The target X is placed in a secure area, usually the festival site. The balloons can launch anywhere they want as long as they are outside of a predetermined radius from the X, usually 1, 2, or 3 miles. Pilots fly in, drop their markers at the X, and scoring is based on the distance from the center of the X.
Watership Down. This is a two-part task that combines a CNT with a Hare and Hound. Competitors take off outside of a predetermined radius of the first target (usually at the festival site) and drop their first marker. The hare balloon launches from the first X and the hound balloons continue on to drop their second marker at the X set down by the hare.
Key Grab. A Key grab is nearly identical to a CNT, but instead of an X at the target, a pole 10 or 20 feet high is the target. A detachable ring is fastened to the top of the pole. The first pilot who removes the ring wins the prize. Prizes can be almost anything; new cars, cash, and even new balloons have been given away! An X for a CNT is often placed near the pole and the two tasks are flown simultaneously. Throw your marker and grab the ring - you can do quite well in a single flight!
Minimum Distance Double Drop. The judges define two scoring areas. The task is to drop one marker in each scoring area, with the shortest distance between the two markers achieving the highest score. Watch out, though - in an effort to get your markers as close together as possible, one marker might drift outside the boundaries of a scoring area, resulting in no score.
ELBO. Pilots take off from a common launch point (point A) and fly to a judge declared goal (point B). One marker is dropped at point B. The pilot then tries to change the direction of flight and drop a second marker at a point (point C) that will result in the smallest angle between point A and point C.
Multiple Pilot Declared Goal. The competition director will assign pilots to drop markers at multiple targets of their choice. Targets are usually road intersections or road - railroad intersections. Sounds easy! But the targets must be identified by their map coordinates. The first target's coordinates must be declared before launch, the coordinates for the second target must be written on the tail of the marker dropped at the first target, and so on. Errors in writing down the coordinates or choosing a target that is difficult to get to can cost precious points.
As you may note, balloon competitions can be very challenging. Serious competitors use sophisticated programs to track wind speed and direction before they fly, and use GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers in the balloon during flight to assist in determining the best altitude to fly to get to the next target.
In the early days of competition flying, some pilots felt fortunate to drop a marker within a hundred feet of a target. Today, the center of a target can have dozens of markers within a foot of its center. Penalty points or a rules violation can make the difference between winning and losing.