Puget Sound Balloon Festivals
It is important to understand
When balloons fly
Balloons are not toys. We don't go to the party store, fill them up and let them go. A hot air balloon is a licensed aircraft. Balloons carry people. The most important decision a pilot makes is on the ground. It is to fly or not to fly. The decision is totally up to the pilot because they are the ones with the expertise. As an event organizer, I sometimes receive pressure from sponsors, passengers and fans to make the pilots fly. While by contract I have zero influence on their decision, I'd like to discuss some of the factors pilots consider.
Rain - The fabric of a balloon is tested by the FAA yearly. Under normal conditions it is good for 600 hours of flight before it is grounded. These envelopes cost between $20,000 and $200,000 depending on size, colors and shape. If a balloon is put away wet it will mildew and shorten the balloon life considerably.
Time of Day - Balloons fly in the morning and evening for two reasons. First, the sun and heat play a major impact on creating winds that are not predicable. Second, the heat and the sun degrade the life of the balloon fabric. (called the envelope)
Wind speed - The ground wind is more important than the higher altitude winds due to landing considerations. Depending on the size and the shape of the balloon it is not advisable to land in winds of over 8 to 12 mph. If over 12 mph the chance are the basket will tip over on landing and be drug aways.
Wind direction - The wind must be blowing in a direction that there are places to land.
Cloud cover & fog - Depending on the size of the balloon the cloud ceiling has to be at least 1,000 to 1,500 feet. This also includes the cloud cover in the area in which you might land. It is important that pilots have a clear view of landing obstacles, like power lines and trees.
Pilot health - If a pilot is not feeling 100% the time of the flight, the pilot could cancel.
Weather forecasts - Pilots have access to the most up-to-date forecasts and even if the weather looks good, pilots don't want to take the chance if it may get bad.