So you've got a certain fascination with hot air balloons? You wonder what it would be like to take a ride, floating up in the sky and looking out across the horizon? You're not alone.... it is on the bucket list of many. But why wait any longer to make that dream come true? The pilot list is up at www.carolinaballoonfest.com and some of the pilots would be happy to reserve you a spot in their balloon!
While we believe any balloon flight is a good one, flying at Carolina BalloonFest is a special experience. Look around you and about 50 other balloons are floating in all directions. When you ascent from the field, you will probably be cheered by a crowd, waving and wishing you well. Quite honestly, quite a few of those folks in that crowd will be wishing they were you!
So what's the experience like? Let's see. The noise of the propane burner may make you jump a bit at first and you'll feel the heat of the burn, but often you don't even notice as you leave the ground. You might notice a little flip flop in your stomach, but if you are like most passengers that feeling will quickly dissipate and suddenly you will feel at complete peace. Most people comment that it is far quieter than they anticipated....well, other than the occasional sound of that propane burner! Even with all of the balloons that go up together at a balloon festival, you don't hear a lot of noise once you get beyond the crowd. Still, even in the quiet, often when you are traveling over neighborhoods, you will feel that you have superhuman hearing. You can often hear conversations of those below. Sometimes you will feel the need to join in.
Often you'll see folks below watching in their yards, or parking their car along the side of the road to watch. At times those cars look like they are very close....at times they look very far away. Notice the animals. The pilots try to pay attention when there are animals around, because animals often react keanly to the sound of the propane burner. You may see deer running at top speed.
Check out the landmarks in the area. Even if you're not from around the Statesville area, you may recognize places you saw on the drive in. You'll often be able to find the chase vehicle that is following you. If not, your pilot will probably be in contact with them on the radio.
How long will your balloon ride be? It's impossible to say. Usually they last around an hour, but the pilot is paying attention to fuel, weather conditions and potential landing spots. Any of those things can impact the length of the ride.
A few things to think about. First of all you have to climb in that basket. Some of you will be quite graceful, others... not so much. That's OK....grace is not required. You just need to get in there! Wear clothes that make it easy. If you think climbing in the basket is going to be an issue, talk to the pilot or their crew chief when booking your flight and let them know about any possible limitations. Don't wait until you get there and possibly get turned away. These pilots care about your safety and will do all they can to make a ride happen for you, but also will be honest with you if they think there will be issues. Balloon baskets are different (a few pilots have baskets that are handicapped accessible) and pilots have different abilities and capabilities and rules regarding passengers. Make sure that you find the right one for you before you book.
The cost for rides at this year's festival is $225 per person. Think that is a lot of money? It is, but it is actually less than a lot of private ride operators charge. And think about this. The minimum cost of a balloon is about the same cost as a car. They have a chase crew that is there to help set up, follow you in flight and take down. The chase crew drives a vehicle that not only must accommodate the size of the balloon, but pilot and crew and passengers afterward. They must have insurance on all of this. Your pilot has been trained as a commercial pilot and regularly attends safety seminars to keep their education current. They have to have communication devices and navigation devices and safety gear. Let's just put it this way....it's a tough sport to get rich in!
To book a ride, go to http://www.carolinaballoonfest.com. In the banner at the top, click on "Pilots and Flights" Scroll down the page and see pictures of the balloons that will be at Carolina BalloonFest this year. If a pilot will be offering rides, there will be a green link to their contact information (email, phone number, or both.) Contact them, and set up an experience of a lifetime! And yes, if this is the time you are thinking about popping the question, this is a memorable way to do it. People get engaged every year at BalloonFest and we have even had some marriages in the skies along the way!
Keep scrolling down, and there is a great question and answer section at the end of the pilot page.....scroll down and read it for great tips before you take your ride.
On The Breeze ~
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