The Basics: Ballooning is the oldest form of aviation, dating back to 1780's France, where the concept of using trapped hot-air as a lifting agent was first tested. Since then, ballooning has grown into a popular sport, with tens of thousands of balloonists and crew members regularly enjoying sport ballooning throughout the world. And getting into ballooning is very easy, but there are a few things you should know:
First, ballooning is typically an early morning or late afternoon activity, because the atmospheric conditions are usually at their most stable during the first and last hours of the day. Cool temperatures and calm winds are ideal for ballooning. Therefore, it's important to know that you may have a pre-dawn wakeup call to participate in ballooning. The thrill and beauty of the sport makes up for the early jolt out of bed.
Second, ballooning is a very safe form of aviation, but is only kept safe by the people who participate in it. Therefore, it is important that, whether you're a pilot or crew member, you focus on taking safety precautions while out ballooning.
Third, people will typically get started in ballooning by joining a chase crew. Chase crews help set up the balloon, prepare it for launch, chase the balloon to it's final landing spot, and help pack it up. The chase crews are also responsible for being the life of the tailgate parties, which are an integral part of Colorado ballooning. Learn more about what chase crews do.
Finally, balloons drift with the wind. Pilots can control the up and down maneuvers of the balloon...however, they can not control which direction the wind blows. Therefore, a pilot must pay attention to different wind directions at different altitudes, adjusting to navigate. Chase crews follow the balloon during flight, meeting the pilot and passengers when they land.
Getting Started: We recommend that, if you are brand new to ballooning and want to learn more and get involved, you should join a chase crew. There are many Colorado-based pilots who welcome new chase crew and are happy to introduce others to the sport. Joining a chase crew allows you to experience what ballooning is all about, and gives you the opportunity to interact with the operations of a flight.
If you would like to join a chase crew, email us and we will be sure to respond and set you up with some local balloon pilots.
The Balloon Federation of America offers a Junior Balloonists Program for kids aged 13-17. More information can be found here:www.bfa.net