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May 24, 2006 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone own a hot air balloon? I have had a desire to own one and go on some amazing trips but is it feasible?

I imagine setting them up would take hours as would packing them away. Is the joy worth the cost and trouble? How much skill do they take to operate? If owning one is not feasible, how about renting one for my own trips?
posted by zaebiz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This looks like a good starting point.

Via Google
posted by dead_ at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2006

Also, Wikipedia has tons on this, with a lot of nice external links.
posted by dead_ at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. I have seen the Wikipedia link and will check the others out. I was hoping to find someone who has experience in this and can express the joy of it in terms that outweight the effort involved?
posted by zaebiz at 1:46 PM on May 24, 2006

Yeah, can't help you there. Seems like it would be amazing though. Terrifying and exhilirating... I would imagine!
posted by dead_ at 1:48 PM on May 24, 2006

It's the kind of thing you should do with other owners first, a bit like learning how to sail by being a part of the crew. If you're going to own a balloon, you have to know all about maintenance, about ground crew work, about weather, etc. You can learn all of that by helping others make trips, and not necessarily even leave the ground, but instead as part of the chase and maintenance crew. And you can go to school for it:
Lindstrand Balloon School Eqypt
Lindstrand Balloon School Italy
British School of Ballooning
Liberty Balloon School
somewhere in Calgary
some others
posted by pracowity at 2:02 PM on May 24, 2006

I think only you can say whether the joy will outweigh the effort. I don't own a balloon but a friend of mine had one for awhile and I've been on balloon flghts. Set up does take hours, mostly due to the difficulty of inflating the balloon without burning it while it's still laying on its side. Pack up is much, much quicker. The bigger pain is that you'll need a ground crew to support you - someone who will track your movement in the air, be there when you land, help you pack up and transport you to whereever.

Your question sounds to me as if you want to travel with your balloon (i.e. take a cross-country trip) rather than just going up and coming down in roughly the same neighbor. That, to me, sounds like more trouble than it's worth what with all the limitations on where and when you can fly and your limited ability to choose your exact direction of travel and landing site.

Still, being up there is amazing. It's not as quiet as you'd think (the flame is loud when it's on), but when you're drifting you can look straight down at the world. It's a view you really can't match unless you're into hanggliding or parachuting.

Have you been on a balloon flight? (I'm guessing not because you don't seem to have seen a setup/pack). Try it. That'll give you a good idea of the "joy." Then talk to the owner/operator about the "effort."
posted by zanni at 2:12 PM on May 24, 2006

I have had a desire to own one and go on some amazing trips but is it feasible?

I looked into this once.

For a sport balloon (not so much "trips" but "flying around your area"): figure 20-50 grand for a balloon, and another 20-30 grand every 300-500 hours of flying time to replace the envelope (the nylon part). Add in 50 gallons of propane per trip at, say, $2/gallon.

And that's after you're a licensed balloonist. Getting your license will take a minimum of 16 hours of dual instruction at ~$300-400/hr if you have to rent a balloon, plus a couple hundred for ground school, exams, and your flight test.

Here's a walkthrough of the licensing requirements for Canada.

Not feasible for me, that's for sure. It's a lot cheaper and a lot more flexible to take to the clouds with a wing and an engine along for the ride.
posted by mendel at 2:12 PM on May 24, 2006

Think about taking up soaring. A lot quieter, no burner noise. No packing. And the flights can last a lot longer and go farther. Info.
posted by beagle at 2:36 PM on May 24, 2006

FWIW - a student from my alma mater sewed up his own hot air balloon with the guidance and equipment of a long-time friend of mine who is making his own airships. This is another cheaper route into the hobby.
posted by plinth at 7:03 PM on May 24, 2006

You might try a lawn chair and weather balloons. Balloons are for sale here. Just don't forget to secure your BB gun.

(No, don't. Just kidding. You'll kill yourself, or you'll tangle with a 747 and kill yourself and 300 others. Larry was lucky. There is no cheap and easy way to go ballooning.)
posted by pracowity at 12:01 AM on May 25, 2006

This does not answer your real question, but....

Maybe get an ultralight plane? It's like a tricycle with a lawnmower engine underneath a hang-glider. It's powered, goes about 80 miles per hour, and they're supposed to be super fun (and not *that* dangerous). They can be flown without a pilot's license.

I heard an NPR story about ultralight clubs that basically fly these puppies and do camping weekends and longer trips. Some have flown hundreds of miles.
posted by zpousman at 2:32 AM on May 25, 2006

They can be flown without a pilot's license.

Not in Canada, they can't. Flying an ultralight here is a private pilot's license, ultralight -- 10 hours, of which at least 2 must be solo. Most people take closer to 20, so you're looking at about half the time of an airplane license.
posted by mendel at 9:46 AM on May 25, 2006

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