Frequently Asked Questions About Ballooning

"... I have known today a magnificent intoxication. I have learnt how it feels to be a bird. I have flown. Yes I have flown. I am still astonished at it, still deeply moved ..."
Le Figaro

Why do flights take place so early in the morning?
Balloons need cool, stable, and calm conditions to operate effectively and the hours following sunrise are most suitable. Since ballooning is the only form of flight which moves with the wind, weather is most important in the decision to fly. The pilot cannot directly steer but chooses altitude carefully, utilizing wind currents to guide the balloon towards a convenient landing site. If the balloon was operated later in the day, strong breezes and thermals would make the activity more dangerous. Besides, it’s a great time to be up, and the mornings in the western suburbs of Boston are spectacular.

Are there regulations covering Hot Air balloon flights?
Balloons are fully registered aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and are subject to regular airworthiness checks by authorized personnel. Pilots need to have different levels of experience before they are allowed to progress to be commercial pilots, and this is carefully monitored by the FAA.

What should we wear?
Due to the nature of the New England landscape, we encourage you to wear casual clothing and sneakers or walking shoes. We suggest light layers of warm clothing so you can easily adjust to the temperature as the sun comes up. The coolest you will be is on the ground. Once you’re in flight, the burners tend to keep the baskets nice and warm.

Can anyone be a passenger in a Hot Air balloon?
Our minimum age for passengers is 8 years old. The baskets do not have seats so you will need to stand the entire duration of the flight (about an hour).

Are age and health a consideration?
Yes, our flight is not recommended for children under 8 years of age and adults in poor health. Some health exceptions are made with a written note from the passenger's physician. Other considerations include: pregnant women, people with bones having metal pins that prevent good range of motion, and individuals with certain health and mobility problems. Passengers do stand during flight and need some agility to get in and out of the balloon basket. A bumpy landing is a possibility, so safety is always our number one priority.

I have a fear of heights.
Balloon flight is very gentle and stable. Because you start from the ground and gently lift up, rather than looking over the edge of a building, the sensation is very different. If you are uncertain, we recommend that you try 'ballooning' at the end of a 'tether rope' first ... we feel certain that you'll be surprised at how comfortable and safe you'll feel.

Do passengers get airsick?
No. The flight of a balloon is almost too smooth to describe. Often passengers have no sensation of even having left the ground.

What are balloons made of?
Balloons are made of ripstop nylon supported on a frame of Kevlar ropes and high grade webbing.

Why is the basket made of wicker?
Wicker has proven to be very strong for its weight and flexibility. It is by far the most resilient material for the task.

How do you get into the basket?
Hot air balloon baskets are not outfitted with doors and therefore the only way to board the balloon is by going up and over the side of the basket. There is no graceful way to do it! Just up and over. Don’t worry….our courteous crew are happy to assist you.

How is the balloon inflated?
The envelope is stretched out and attached to the basket. A powerful fan is used to inflate the envelope with cold air. Once inflated, the air is heated by the burner and the envelope rises above the basket. With further heating, there is sufficient lift for the balloon to fly.

What fuel is used for the burners?
Hot air provides lift. To heat the air, the burners are fueled by L.P.G. (Liquid Propane Gas) The burners do not run continuously, only to heat the air as required.

How high do balloons fly?
Most balloonists enjoy low level flight as there is more to be seen close to the ground. We cross over some of the many lakes and ponds in the area, often observing local wildlife such as deer, blue herons, birds of prey and many forms of wildlife unique to the wetlands and forests of New England. In New England we fly balloons at altitudes up to 7,500 feet but a typical balloon flight will usually be anywhere from tree top level to approximately 2,000 ft.

What do you hear while you're flying?
You travel with the wind, so when the burner is off, it is completely quiet. It's easy to hear sounds drifting up from below: dogs barking, birds singing, and many greetings from homeowners.

How far does a balloon fly?
Anywhere from a few miles to 10 miles, depending on wind speed and flight duration. The take off location may vary depending on wind direction.

Is wind required to fly?
No, but most balloonists prefer about 2-6 miles per hour surface wind.

How tall are balloons?
Average size balloons range from 70 to 85 feet tall.

Are radios used?
Radios are used to contact the ground crew as well as Air Traffic Control and other aircraft flying in the vicinity.

How is the balloon steered?
Balloons cannot be steered! Some directional control is possible by ascending or descending into air currents going in a different direction. The pilot can raise or lower the altitude of the balloon by controlling the temperature inside the balloon. Wind direction is checked prior to take off by up to date weather reports and is confirmed by releasing a small helium balloon just prior to launch.

Does the balloon land back at the airport?
No, it probably won't. Wind speed and direction will dictate where we land but out chase crew will follow along as we fly. They will be on hand to make the recovery when the balloon touches down. After we've landed and are packed up, they will drive us back to the airport in the chase vehicle.

Adventures with DragonFire Balloon

Acton, MA
Lucy on a local flight

Stow, VT
Lucy in Vermont

Albuquerque, NM
Lucy at Fiesta

Castille, NY
Lucy in upstate NY