Yes, that could be you in the basket! Carolina BalloonFest is a great place to take your first balloon ride...or your second....or your tenth! Being up in the air with the crowds below, and other balloons around you.....it is quite amazing. Each year folks come to Statesville and check that experience off their bucket list. Many people have gotten engaged at Carolina BalloonFest, and a few have gotten married. The couple in the picture were married last year, surrounded by family and friends and, well, a very big crowd of strangers. After they were pronounced man and wife, they took off for what I am sure was quite a memorable flight.
Balloon rides at Carolina BalloonFest are $250 per person. You can find booking information online at the Carolina BalloonFest website. If a pilot is booking rides and has passenger space available, you will find contact information for them on our pilot page. Book a Ride Scroll down the page and you will be able to see a picture of their balloons.
Why are balloon rides so expensive? Let's look at what it takes. All pilots who offer them have to be commercial pilots. That means they have paid for training and testing that goes beyond being a private pilot (which in itself is quite the accomplishment)....and continue to be tested throughout their career. They never stop learning.
Then there is the cost of the hot air balloon itself. Hot air balloons are expensive. We usually tell people to think of the cost of one on the same level as a car. Like a car, you can get them used, or new, or very, very upgraded and specialized.
Also like a car balloons have to be inspected and maintained. To transport their balloon, the pilot needs a chase vehicle. They have to have room to transport their balloon, crew, and passengers. The balloon flies on propane, the chase vehicle needs gasoline. Both the balloon and the vehicle need insurance. Then there are the electronics... those things the pilot uses to help fly the balloon, and those the pilot and chase crew use to stay in communication.
There also is the people factor....a pilot needs a good chase crew to help them set the balloon up, launch, follow them (wherever they go), and be there to help them take the balloon down. It's a big investment of time for a lot of people....not just the pilot.
Other things impact the cost, too, but that gives you an idea. Ballooning is an expensive sport....no one gets rich doing it!
How long is a ride? Usually around 45 minutes, but that can vary greatly. The weather matters, of course. What's going on with the winds? What time did you launch? There actually is a limited window of flyable time....pilots can fly in this area morning and night, but there are usually only a couple of flyable hours. And where can they land? Pilots spend most of their flight looking for good landing spots. For example, they want a place that is power-line free, they want to stay away from livestock, they want to land in a place where their chase vehicle can have access, and they want to land in a place where the landowner is friendly. Pilots love to fly....but they also want a safe landing. That is their priority on any flight.
Communicate with your pilot as to any plans you have for the flight, such as if you are planning to propose. They need to be aware of what is going to happen during the flight in advance, so they are not distracted as they are flying. (They're good secret keepers...honest!) They'll ask you questions, like about your weight, not to be nosy but because there are weight limits they must adhere to for the balloon. Be honest with them....it's really for a purpose and not for random curiosity. Tell them about any health issues, so you can discuss whether it is a good idea for you to fly, or so they can make necessary accommodations. You can even tell them if you are scared to death of taking the flight. They want it to be a good experience for you and often can talk you through those fears.
Most of our pilots offering rides have full baskets for the weekend before BalloonFest gets here, so make plans now if that is something that you want to do. I took my first ride at Carolina BalloonFest years ago, and I loved every second of it. I hope the same for you. So go ahead....give it a try. Wave at the crowd as you descend up in the air. And don't forget your camera...this will be the photo op of a lifetime! Book a Ride
On The Breeze ~
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