Beginning around noon on the previous day of your flight, we continue to monitor the weather very carefully. We first check for regional frontal movement, then local wind and weather forecasts and finally, the morning of your flight, we launch our own small latex weather balloons to confirm that the wind direction and speed are safe for hot air balloon flight. We do not fly in convection (up and down drafts). These begin as early as around 9:00 AM. Convection causes the balloon to rise and descend uncontrollably, which is unsafe. This is the reason we restrict hot air balloon operations to a narrow window in the early morning from sunup to around 9:00AM. Thus, we have a flight window about 2 to 2 ½ hours. This, is the reason you must arrive on time because we simply cannot fly late due to safety concerns.
Our crew and pilots arrive 30 minutes before passengers. They start our generator, set up the snack tables and lay out freshly baked pastries, hot water for drinks, and ice chests full of cold drinks. Colorful flight certificates and restaurant vouchers have been pre-printed for each passenger the previous day. Each hot air balloon and chase vehicle has been checked the previous day. If it is going to be a cold morning the pilots add nitrogen gas to the propane that fuels the burner. This keeps the fuel pressure up which enables the burners to operate at full power on cold mornings. Without this procedure, propane fuel pressure would be low and burner output would be greatly reduced.
We fly balloon equipment from the largest hot air balloon manufacturer. This manufacturer invented the modern hot air balloon system in 1960. The balloon equipment is rugged and technically advanced. There has never been an accident due to equipment malfunction from this manufacturer. Because we have our own FAA Certified Aircraft Repair Station, all our equipment is kept in the best mechanical and cosmetic condition. This makes for a great photographic experience for our passengers. Our balloons have also been selected for over 150 film performances because of their beauty and great condition.
Our trucks that carry the larger balloons are custom built just for this purpose. The trucks are all 4WD Diesel Dually’s with large custom built flatbeds and lift gates. The trucks are designed to carry all equipment needed to launch, chase and recover our largest balloons without the burden of having to pull a trailer in sometimes challenging off road conditions. Our trucks, like our balloon equipment, are service in our repair station so that they are always in top shape and ready for action. Passengers travel in our 16 passenger vans from the short ride from the airport to the launch and recovery sites.
We are one of only four FAA Part 141 Balloon Pilot Schools in the country. An FAA Part 141 School is a special pilot training school which is authorized to train pilots in fewer hours that what is required under the traditional FAA Part 61 of the FAR’s. This privilege is earned from the FAA through the development of a rigorous and comprehensive training syllabus. For this reason, our pilots are some of the most highly trained in the industry. No other hot air balloon company has the combination of: perfect safety record, highly experienced pilots, high quality aircraft and vehicles, in house aircraft repair station, in house FAA Part 141 Pilot School, and in house Special Effects department with performance experience in over 160 films.
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