Sunrise flights meet about 30 minutes before the sun rises. This gives us time to travel to the launch site and inflate the balloon so we are ready to lift off just after sunrise. Just before sunrise the temperature is the coolest and the winds are the calmest, so it is the perfect time to start your balloon adventure. Unstable weather conditions keep us from flying in the middle of the day.We do not offer evening flights yet, but hope to start sometime this winter.
How long does the entire adventure last?
Plan on spending about 3 hours with us for the complete balloon experience. This includes traveling with us from AZ Air Ventures to the launch site; inflation of the balloon, which usually takes about 30 minutes; the balloon ride, which should be about an hour; deflating and packing the balloon away, which is about 15 minutes; then traveling back to AZ Air Ventures for the post-flight celebration.
How long is the balloon flight?
Flight time in the Gila Valley can depend on the speed and direction of the wind, but usually flights last at least 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes.
Where do you fly?
Our takeoff location and direction of flight will be determined the morning of the flight based on the wind direction and speed. Hot air balloons travel with the wind so it is not uncommon to travel from one end of the Gila Valley to the other. Most commonly, flights will flow east and west rather than north and south. Vertical control of the balloon is very precise so the pilot may skim the vegetation or tree tops or fly up to 2000 feet above the ground.
Can you steer a balloon?
We like to say we fly the balloon rather than steer it. There is no "steering" to move you horizontally left or right, but by the pilot adjusting the altitude up or down, the balloon will catch different winds. This allows the pilot to fly the balloon using the wind to safe landing spot.
How high does the balloon fly?
The balloon may hover just above the ground doing what is called contour flying, or it may go as high as 5000 feet above the ground, depending on the wind.
Where will the balloon land?
Part of the adventure of ballooning is not always being able to predict exactly where you will end up. The length and direction of your balloon flight will be determined by the wind speed and wind direction. The pilot will use different air currents at different altitudes to "steer" the balloon to a suitable landing place. The pilot will avoid flying too close to livestock or landing in areas planted with crops.
What is a chase crew?
As you lift off in the balloon, our chase crew made up of volunteers will pack up the inflation equipment then follow the balloon as it flies. You will hear the crew communicate with the pilot on a radio. The crew will meet you at the landing spot, pack up the balloon, and transport you back to AZ Air Ventures for a traditional after flight celebration!
Who can fly?
We want our riders to be tall enough to see out of the basket so they can enjoy the ride so we recommend being at least 48" tall. It is important passengers be capable of understanding and following directions, in overall good health, be able to stand for at least one hour, and be capable of bending knees and holding on during landings. We cannot take passengers who are pregnant or recovering from a recent surgery or injury. Any passenger 12 or under must be accompanied by an adult. If you are 75 years or older or don't meet one of the requirements listed here, please discuss this with us BEFORE purchasing a ride certificate.
Does the basket sway when flying?
It actually does not. The flight is completely smooth. Because you are moving with the wind, there is no turbulence, no sense of swaying, so you won't get motion sick.
What if I"m afraid of heights?
Believe it or not, when you are flying in a basket, it is nothing like standing on a roof or a high ladder. You don't get that vertigo feeling. You are moving with the wind, so there is no wind blowing. Instead, looking down simply unfolds the amazing scenery beneath you.
Is it quiet in the balloon?
Floating through the air in a balloon provides a serene, peaceful atmosphere when the burner is off. When the pilot needs to heat the air in the balloon to stay aloft or to increase altitude, he will use the burner in short bursts which will be a bit noisy.
What should we wear?
Casual clothing and close-toed, flat-sole shoes are best. For your safety, we do not permit sandals or heels. When it's cold, layers and a light jacket are better than a heavy coat. The coldest time will be just before sunrise while you are still on the ground, but once in the air, you will warm up.
Can we bring cameras and video cameras?
Please do. The views will be outstanding! A neck strap or soft case to stow your camera during landing is recommended. We will also be taking photos and video of you enjoying your adventure which will be available for purchase if you choose.
Will there be anything to eat or drink?
We will provide a bottle of water while you are in the balloon, and when we land, we will have a traditional celebratory toast along with breakfast snacks before returning you to Az Air Ventures.
Should we tip our balloon pilot and chase crew?
As is customary in any service industry, a gratuity is always appreciated if you love your experience and the services you receive. A typical tip starts at 10% per passenger. "If you like the ride, tip your guide!"
ABOUT THE BALLOON
What makes a hot air balloon fly?
Itís very simple actually. Since hot air rises, we heat the air inside the balloon to a hotter temperature than the ambient temperature around the outside of the balloon. Because hot air rises, the balloon does too!
How big is the balloon?
Just Ducky is 68 feet tall by 58 feet wide and holds 90,000 cubic feet of air. Floating Awaysis is 72 feet tall by 60 feet wide and holds 105,000 cubic feet of air. Just imaging filling the envelop with 90,000 or 105,000 soccer balls. Mathematically, it has the same area inside as the cabin and luggage area of three 747's.
What kind of cloth is the hot air balloon made of?
Our colorful envelopes are made of as special Ripstop nylon. This is the same type of cloth that parachutes are made of. It is very tightly woven and is coated with a material that makes it airtight. The nylon is only used to keep the hot air in the balloon. The basket load is transferred by steel cables to a series of vertical load tapes which carry the load. Balloons range in size from about 54,000 cubic feet for a one or two-person balloon to over 450,000 cubic feet for a balloon capable of carrying a pilot plus twenty-four (or more) passengers. Just Ducky is 90,000 cubic feet and can carry the pilot and four passengers while Floating Awaysis is 105,000 cubic feet and can carry the pilot and five passengers.
How do you get the balloon inflated?
As part of your adventure, we encourage you to help with inflation and deflation. When else will you have an opportunity to participate in such a unique experience? First we assemble the basket setting upright poles onto the basket and then setting the burner and frame onto the poles. Cables from the basket connect to the burner frame securing it in place. Fuel hoses are then connected from the burner to the propane tanks inside the basket. We set the basket on its side, connect the envelop to the cables, and then use an inflater fan to blow cool air into the balloon. The air causes the balloon to open and grow larger as it fills while it is still laying on its side. Once the envelop is sufficiently filled with cool air (cold packed), the pilot uses the burners to warm the air inside the balloon which will then cause the balloon to rise to an upright position lifting the basket to a standing position. Once fully upright, passengers will be asked to climb into the basket.
How do you get into the basket?
Our hot air balloon baskets do not have a door, but they do have small foot hole. Basically you use the foot hole to step up, grab hold of the bar above you, then you swing your leg over the side of the basket and step down onto the bottom of the basket pulling the other leg in after. Honestly, it's not graceful, but it gets you in. Of course our crew will be right there to help you.
How many people fit in a balloon basket?
AZ Air Ventures is a small balloon ride company specializing in individualized experiences so we offer rides for two to five passengers per flight.
Why is the basket made of wicker?
The wicker basket has proven to be very strong for its weight and is flexible. The wicker is woven around an aluminum frame, which helps to support the upright posts upon which the burner is mounted. The top rim of the basket and the uprights are padded and covered in leather.
What kind of fuel is used for the burners?
To heat the air, the burners are fueled by propane gas, the same as you probably use in your backyard barbecue grill. The burners do not run continuously; they are only used intermittently to heat the air to maintain the required lift.
How are balloon pilots licensed?
The Federal Aviation Administration controls ballooning with the same strict regulations that apply to airplanes. Balloons are licensed as federal aircrafts and must pass airworthiness checks each year. These inspections are completed by FAA authorized maintenance personnel. All pilots must be certified by the FAA after having passed written, oral and practical tests as well as completed the required hours of flight training time. In addition, all pilots have to pass regular flight checks. Some pilots are licensed as private pilots. Greg and Susan Lindsey, the pilots of AZ Air Ventures, are both licensed as commercial pilots which requires additional hours and instruction. Because of their extended training, commercial pilots are licensed to train student pilots.