Queensland Seniors Month: My Hot Air Ballooning experience

October 28, 2021


How many people have a To-Do List before they depart this life? My list began from the time I divorced decades ago and has been ongoing ever since. I delight in new challenges and adventures. 

So when my niece gifted me a birthday voucher for Hot Air Ballooning (HAB) my initial reaction was surprisingly one of hesitation as it was something I had never considered even though I am a bit of a daredevil.

It wasn’t about the height issue. I’m a snow skier, have been in helicopters, climbed the active volcano Mt Villarica in Chile, hiked to the crater of active Mount Vesuvius in Italy, travelled into Antarctica. Nor was it about drifting in the atmosphere with nothing but a basket attached to a big balloon. 

It was about landing. Following a disc removed from my neck and knee surgery from skiing the severity and type of ground impact from some exploits can be an issue.  

Consequently, when hard copy encyclopaedias are almost extinct as dinosaurs, I Googled. I was fascinated by the plethora of positive information. The majority of family and friends were encouraging and unanimously said Ruth you will love it plus my older brother and his wife HAB in both Egypt and Thailand. There was no turning back. 

My story

It was a dark, fresh 3 am at the gold coast when we sipped on our morning cup of tea, showered, and dressed to arrive at our 5 am bus pick-up/drop-off meeting point with Go Ballooning.  

Clothes, well my patient niece had to deal with my indecisiveness on what to wear. Finally, I chose layers for a predicted 24C day as floating in an early morning sky meant it would be cooler. T-shirt, skivvy, vest, and a hooded parka were perfect as I feel the cold. Others wore less and felt the chill. Beanie and gloves weren’t needed. 

Our bus driver provided a rundown of the process, what to expect and provided us with blue plastic foot covers for walking on the damp grass. We arrived at an isolated local dewy field where low-lying mist and light fog lingered. The balloon was eye-catching as it was filled with intermittent shots of flaming gas.

Before take-off, our pilot Murray Blyth with his funny sense of humour took us through a safety brief and landing technique. He demonstrated how to hold onto a rope inside the basket for landing, keeping our knees slightly apart and bent for impact. He sure knows his craft.

The lift-off was breathtaking and exceeded my expectations. I felt safe as I hung over the side of the basket while we drifted over houses, bushlands, and water. It was an incredibly cathartic, tranquil, and soothing experience. I loved it. 

I hardly felt a thing as we landed, it was amazing and no jolts to my already damaged body, it was fantastic.  

I am thrilled I was bound to this adventure and live to tell the story. 

Our carrier

We flew with Go Ballooning at Queensland’s Gold Coast. A locally owned family business and operated airline fuelled by passion, adventure, and gas! They also own the world’s largest pink hot air balloon which was perfect for my niece as she loves everything pink.

The McGrath Foundation is their sponsor, hence the pink theme, and from all bookings made, $10 is donated to the foundation for breast cancer research and support. 

Go Ballooning offers various packages according to your budget, ours included breakfast. If there are any potential delays with the flight which means a slightly delayed landing, they provide you with a breakfast voucher for later use.  

Their approach to safety was impressive. We were advised of potential last-minute changes due to weather conditions. Our original booking was postponed due to weather conditions and on our actual flying day, we were on standby in case of changes to the weather

They offer no charge extensions for months ahead which is fantastic. There was ongoing communication from the company keeping us informed on up-to-date conditions. 

Hot Air Ballooning Information

 Safety statistics

In the aviation world, hot air balloons are an incredibly safe form of flight and have become increasingly safe over time. Accidents are uncommon, and fatalities are even rarer. Between 2000 and June of 2016, only 21 hot air ballooning fatalities were reported in the United States. You are peculiarly safe,  so if flying makes you queasy, hot air ballooning may be a good place to start! 

Three parts to a hot air balloon

The fabric bag or ‘envelope’ is made of strong lightweight nylon with a mouth for the hot gas. A metal-reinforced woven wicker basket that carries the pilot and passengers is attached to the balloon with metal cables. The burner is attached above the basket, under the balloon, positioned so the pilot can aim the burning flame from the gas into the mouth of the balloon to heat the air. 

Number of people

This can vary depending on the size of the balloon. They can hold from 2 to 24 people on average although some special balloons are made to carry 32 people. We had 20 people in our hot air balloon. Each participant had to provide their approximate body weight, the rest was about trust.

Gas and time in the air 

The balloonist burns off liquid propane, to turn it into gas that shoots up into the balloon. In the USA they use helium or hydrogen as their lifting gas, either gas is extremely light. 

Some rides last for about an hour others three to four, needless to say, the longer the trip the more propane is needed. The pilot normally allows enough gas for an extra hour’s flight as it’s possible to go off course. 

The more people on board the more it will affect the burning of fuel as well as the size of the balloon. 

Steering the balloon

The pilot controls the height and direction of the balloon itself by the gas and ropes. There are no definite pre-determined landing sites but the pilots have a few known safety spots for landing. For our flight, we landed on a different spot to the original one and it was fine. 

Certainly worth it at some point in your life, at any age. 

Acknowledgments:

https://outdoortroop.com/hot-air-balloon-safety-statistics-how-safe-is-it-really/

https://www.goballooning.com/bookings/

@GoBallooning Christmas vouchers are valid for 3 years and are available online

Phone bookings 1300FLYHOT   info@goballooning.com

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