Frequently Asked Questions & Important Information
Please read all the information on this page for nearly everything to expect about your Columbus Aeronauts experience.
Contact us with any other questions that are not included here and we'll be glad to provide an answer!
- CAN YOU STEER A BALLOON?
Winds determine a hot air balloons direction. Balloonists can steer a balloon, to a limited extent, by adjusting the balloon’s altitude and making use of different wind speeds and directions. The burners are used to heat the air and make the balloon rise. The pilot may stop “burning” the fuel to stay level before the balloon starts to descend. Venting hot air out the top makes you go down quicker. Pilots follow the wind patterns and adjust their altitude to move the balloon in different directions according to where they, and their passengers, would like to go.
- HOW BIG IS A BALLOON?
The most popular size is about 55 feet wide and 7 stories tall, using close to 1800 sq. yards of nylon fabric, 3 miles of thread, a 1/2 mile of reinforced nylon webbing (load tapes), and holds about 90,000 cubic feet of heated air. “Special shape” balloons and commercial balloons’ can range in size from 105,000 cubic feet to 300,000 cubic feet, to accommodate larger baskets and more passengers. The size depends upon how many passengers the company is trying to fly at one time. Some balloons hold as few as one person others as many as 32 passengers.
- HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED IN BALLOONING?
You can get involved with a local pilot and or be join a local balloon club like the Central Ohio Balloon Club. Many enthusiasts get their start as a member of a chase crew. If you live in the Central Ohio area, e-mail us or call us to ask how you can become a member. You might earn free flight time and/or training as crew member!
- HOW COULD I LEARN TO FLY A BALLOON?
Balloon pilots come from all walks of life. Anyone with the desire to learn to fly a balloon can become a pilot. Start by learning about balloons while working on a crew and/or taking lessons from a pilot instructor. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will issue a balloon pilot’s license after you have gained the required experience, passed a written test, and passed a flight test with a FAA examiner.
- HOW DO BALLOONS FLY?
Hot Air Balloons operate through the basic principles of gravity and heat transfer. As air inside the balloon is heated past the ambient temperature of its surroundings, it gains altitude. As the air inside the envelope cools or is vented, it descends. Pilots use wind layers at different altitudes to move the balloon from one direction to another.
- HOW HIGH DO BALLOONS FLY?
The highest hot air balloon flight on record went to an altitude of 40,000 ft. However, the typical romantic or pleasure flight would fly from treetop level to a few thousand feet, depending on the wind speed and direction.
- HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU NEED TO FLY A BALLOON?
At least a crew of 3: 1 pilot and at 2 ground crew. Crews are very important to prepare for a launch, follow, and safely recover the balloon. Passengers often assist as crew. It’s all part of the fun.
- HOW MUCH DOES A BALLOON COST?
Like cars and boats, new balloons vary in size and amenities. A new smaller sport model could cost around $18,000. These balloons typically carry the pilot and one passenger. Larger balloons that carry four to six persons in addition to the pilot will range in price between $20,000 and $55,000 (for envelope, gondola, tanks, and instruments). Used equipment is available. Big commercial balloons (10 to 15 passengers) and special shapes sell for market price making them quite costly.
- HOW MUCH DOES A BALLOON WEIGH?
The average hot air balloon (with a deflated envelope, a gondola or basket, 30-40 gallons of fuel in 2 tanks) weighs about 800 pounds. Special Shape and larger commercial balloons weigh thousands of pounds. Once inflated and in the air it will weigh about 2 1/2 tons!
- HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GO FOR A RIDE?
As an industry, any reputable balloon company will charge between $175.00 and $275.00 per person. However, some businesses offer special gift certificates that could lower the price. Being FAA certified, hot air balloons are very expensive to own and operate. With the cost of: crew, chase trucks, aircraft maintenance and commercial insurance, balloonists strive to keep the cost to the passenger as low as possible. Back in 1786 it cost the U.S equivalent of $45,000 per passenger! Ballooning is less expensive than ever. Prices will vary from one Balloon Company to another, so it is best to contact the business directly regarding prices and offers.Un
- WHAT EQUIPMENT IS REQUIRED FOR BALLOONS?
After the balloon envelope is laid out, a gas-powered fan forces unheated air through the balloons mouth, filling the fabric and giving the pilot space to light the balloon’s burners. This is called cold inflation. After the envelope is filled, the balloon is stood-up by igniting the burners and heating up the air inside. That’s called hot inflation. After the envelope is over the basket, and the pilot checks his equipment, the passengers are allowed to board.
- WHAT FUEL DO HOT AIR BALLOONS USE?
Hot air balloons carry 20 to 45 gallons of propane in stainless steel fuel tanks. The average flight uses roughly 30 gallons during an hour.
- HOW FAR DOES A BALLOON TRAVEL?
The distance a balloon covers depends heavily on the wind speed in the area it is flying. The average pleasure or romantic flight can range anywhere from three miles and up to ten miles from the launch site.
- HOW LONG IS AN AVERAGE BALLOON FLIGHT?
Usually a balloon flight lasts about an hour. At an average wind speed of about 5 mph, a balloon will fly 2 – 8 miles. Ground crews follow the balloon, talking on the radio with the pilot. The balloon will land in an open area with the ground crew there to help recover the equipment and to take the pilot and passengers back to the launch site.
- HOW MANY PEOPLE FIT IN A BALLOON?
Some hot air balloons can hold up to 30 passengers. Columbus Aeronauts has chosen to keep the experience personal and limit the size of our balloons to a maximum of four. Hot air balloons vary in both envelope and basket sizes. Contact the ride company you plan to ride with for questions regarding the number of passengers you will be flying with. Columbus Aeronauts has the ability to accommodate large groups for a flight, but the group would be divided between several balloons that hold 3-4 passengers each.
- WHAT ABOUT BAD WEATHER?
Weather is a very important factor in hot air ballooning safely. Winds both on the ground and aloft, temperature, pressure systems, rain and fog all play crucial roles in a pilots decision to fly. Most commercial ride companies require passengers to call-in the day before a flight to check weather conditions. If a flight is canceled due to weather, Columbus Aeronauts will reschedule the flight for another day or may offer a refund if another day is not available. BEWARE of companies that sell rides that are NOT refundable if there is a weather cancellation.
- WHAT SHOULD WEAR FOR MY BALLOON FLIGHT?
Hot air balloons tend to fly in remote and rural areas, so it best to wear durable outdoor clothing. Closed-toed shoes, like boots or sneakers are a must, as the balloon might land in rough or wet terrain. Early morning flights might be chilly on the ground, but it is important to remember that it will be warmer inside the basket. It is best to wear layers, so you can adjust to a comfortable temperature. Long pants in both summer and winter are recommended to protect your legs from the cold and sticker bushes in the landing site.
- WHY DO BALLOONS FLY IN EARLY MORNING AND LATE EVENING?
Winds are generally calm and favorable the first hours after sunrise and the last hours before sunset. The sun’s uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes strong, variable winds making afternoon flights unpredictable. In the morning, it takes a few hours to heat the earth’s surface enough to generate the thermal activity that creates wind. In the evening, the sun’s intensity has diminished enough to reduce winds to acceptable flight levels. Ideal winds for commercial flights are 3-6 mph.
- WHY IS THERE A MAXIMUM WEIGHT LIMIT ON PASSENGERS?
Every Balloon has a maximum level of weight it can carry. This weight is affected by the ambient temperature around the balloon and at what altitude it is flying. Before a flight, the pilot uses the passenger’s weight to decide how many people can go in each basket. Weight limitations will vary from one commercial ride company to another. Please contact the company you plan to fly with for the maximum weight of your flight.
- DO YOU REQUIRE A DEPOSIT ?
We do require a $100 deposit that will go towards your payment for the hot air balloon flight. This payment will secure your flight reservation. Then you may choose to pay the total remaining in cash on the day of the flight, prior to taking off for your flight. This would give you receive the cash discount versus a credit car surcharge. The $100 depost is non refundable. But we will always honor your deposit for a hot air balloon flight.
- WHO CAN FLY ? ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS ?
Nearly everybody is welcome to fly with us! We've flown passengers from age 2 to 102, and have even been able to accommodate many passengers with disabilities over the years. However, there are a few requirements we need to stand by to make the ride pleasant and enjoyable for all.
You should be in good physical shape with no recent surgeries, broken bones, joint replacements or other medical issues which may affect your ability to take part in a physical activity. Although there are places to sit in some of our smaller baskets if necessary, you'll generally need to be able to stand for the duration of the balloon flight (at least one hour). It is important that we be informed of all potential medical/physical problems at the time of flight reservation. In most cases there is no reason for us not to fly a passenger, but we do need to be aware. The safety of our friends and passengers is paramount. See our polices section for more details.
We regret that we cannot take up those who are pregnant. If you wait a few years and take your child up when they're old enough to appreciate it, it'll be a much more enjoyable experience for the both of you.
We're sorry that we cannot currently accommodate wheelchair users who are unable to stand for a length of time. There are very few hot air balloons in the world certified to carry wheelchairs, and only a handful that we know of in the United States.
Per FAA regulations, passengers clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot and will not be flown. Refunds will not be given for those who arrive in a such a state.
- IS BALLOONING SAFE ?
The most dangerous part of the hot air balloon ride is the drive to the launch field! That may sound like a joke, but it's the truth.
Although hot air ballooning is one of the safest forms of aviation, it still has inherent dangers like all other recreational activities. Please be aware of your physical limitations when scheduling a balloon ride, as it is important to understand all the possible risks involved. If in doubt, consult your doctor or physician about the suitability of a balloon ride.
The weather is the most influential factor on any hot air balloon flight, and the winds will determine our landing conditions. Despite all the advances in modern forecasting technology and up-to-the-minute aviation weather resources we have at our command, weather is still ultimately unpredictable in flight. Keeping that in mind, there is always the possibility of an occasional windy, bumpy landing. In this case, the basket may make a firm touchdown, tip over in the direction of travel, and drag along the ground until the balloon deflates and we come to a final stop.
For many people, this is the best part - an exciting conclusion to an already adventurous flight! However, for others, a bumpy landing may not be quite what they expected at the end of a graceful balloon ride. We like to educate and prepare all our passengers that every flight has the potential to end this way. Although we will never launch when conditions are expected to result in such an exciting landing, there's always the possibility the landing might offer a little more fun than we anticipated. Whatever the case may be, our professional pilots are skilled and prepared to handle any possible situation in the air.
- WHY IS THERE NO FAA LOGO ON YOUR WEBSITE ?
Because it is illegal for any non-governmental agency to imply any kind of endorsement! See the FAA website and see for yourself.
However, all our pilots, instructors, examiners are FAA licensed.